Fathers honored at fifth annual Champagne Brunch

Photo by Chris Sykes
Mayor Tony Vauss, right, is seated next to, from right, Municipal Council Vice President Renee Burgess, Board of Education President Romaine Greer, Norma Carty and Rasheed Williams on Saturday, June 17, at Essex County Surrogate Ted Stephens’ fifth annual Father’s Day Champagne Brunch at Mayfair Farms in West Orange.

IRVINGTON, NJ — Essex County Surrogate Ted Stephens hosted his fifth annual Champagne Brunch Honoring Fathers on Saturday, June 17, at Mayfair Farms in West Orange. This year, Irvington led the way with two honorees, Mayor Tony Vauss and his friend, Building Director and East Orange Mayor-elect Ted Green.

The other honorees were lobbyist James Cobb of the New York Shipping Association, Essex County Freeholder Brendan Gill, attorney Fernando Marin and Essex County College President Emeritus Zachary Yamba.

“It was an honor and a privilege to receive an award from … Judge Ted Stephens,” said Vauss on Monday, June 19. “His reputation is impeccable throughout the state as a former judge and, now, one of our great county elected officials. He is a great friend and it was a humbling experience.”

Green also said he was honored to have been recognized by Stephens at his annual Father’s Day event, although he was unable to attend this year. Normally Green, the East Orange City Council chairman and 3rd Ward councilman, is known for hosting his own Fathers and Sons Men’s Breakfast event at Langston Hughes Elementary School on the morning before Father’s Day, then traveling to West Orange to participate in Stephens’ annual event at Mayfair Farms.

This year was different, however, because Green and his wife took a vacation after the primary election. But he said he was there in spirit with Vauss, Stephens and everyone else.

“I was very honored to receive an award, because every day is Father’s Day to me and that’s something that my father instilled in me,” said Green on Monday, June 19. “Normally, I’m on the other side of honoring men and fathers over at Langston Hughes School, so this was truly something new for me. I was very honored, although I couldn’t be there. I’m very proud to be a recipient.”

Stephens said it was an honor to honor fathers such as Vauss and Green, adding he felt it was his duty, as a father, black man and officer of the New Jersey courts to do what he can to promote fathers and extol the virtues of fatherhood.

“I’m hosting my fifth annual Father’s Day Brunch,” said Stephens on Saturday, June 17. “It’s extremely important to honor men and fathers. Mothers, God bless mothers, and they get all the accolades that they deserve, but they can’t be fathers.”

According to Stephens, it’s past due time to break negative stereotypes of fathers, especially in the black community.

“Fathers are the backbone of the community. It’s every household. No matter how well the mother does, they’ll do better with the father in the household. We want to showcase the great fathers, like my friend (Bishop Robert Jenkins). There are husbands and fathers, but even if they break up, that’s OK. The standard in the law, when it comes to raising a child, is do what’s in the best interests of that child. It’s not about me, it’s not about her; it’s about the child.”

Jenkins, of Newark, was the friend to whom Stephens referred, and said he has five children, including three sons. Stephens has two sons. Jenkins said he and his colleague, the Rev. Alonzo Hobbs, were glad to be at the Father’s Day Brunch.

“The child is the most important thing and having a single father raising five children, it’s not an easy job, especially girls,” said Jenkins on Saturday, June 17. “The important thing is that fathers make themselves present, even when the mother and father are not together or were not married. It’s not just a weekend father. That’s the tragedy of it, being a part-time dad. You’re not a part-time dad. If you’re a father, you’re a full-time father and you have to make those sacrifices until you raise your children.”

East Orange Democratic Committee Chairman and Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Leroy Jones and his wife, Jackie, were also at the Father’s Day Brunch. Jones said he arrived a little late to the event because he had been pulling “daddy duty” by attending his son’s commencement ceremony earlier in the day.

“I’m here to join in the festivities of fatherhood and the celebration of Father’s Day,” said Jones on Saturday, June 17. “This is the eve of Father’s Day and I’m quite proud, because we just left our son’s graduation from Newark Collegiate Academy, and got here to help Ted shepherd in Father’s Day with so many amazing honorees that exemplify fatherhood, not just in Essex County, but throughout the length and the breadth of New Jersey. So it’s just been an honor today and in past years, but we look forward to future years of continuing to celebrate the virtues of fatherhood.”