Dennis Meehan, who had a brief political career as a member of a large, civically active Edgewater family, has died in California. He was 67.
The cause was bile duct cancer, said his brother, retired state Superior Court Judge William Meehan.
The ninth of 12 children, Dennis Meehan captured a one-year term on the Edgewater school board in 1974, at age 29. He was swiftly named board president. A moving company proprietor, he set his sights on higher office in 1975 when he and a fellow Republican maverick, Englewood Councilman Jerry Hersch, challenged a pair of Democratic Assembly incumbents, Byron Baer and Albert Burstein.
The race was one of three that fall involving Meehan brothers. Francis, known as Mac, ran for a third four-year term as mayor of Edgewater, and William sought a seat on the River Edge Borough Council. Only Francis prevailed.
Dennis Meehan and his siblings learned the art of politics from their father, Frank, who also served as Edgewater school board president. Dennis Meehan acquired a reputation for aggressive campaigning. During his successful 1975 campaign for a full school board term, he distributed fliers charging that an opponent was undereducated. When two school board members endorsed the opponent, Mr. Meehan put out new fliers accusing them of being lavish spenders.
"Sure, I enjoy a good fight," he told The Record in 1975. "You learn that when you go out to compete in anything, you do what you have to do to win."
Comparing Dennis and Francis, the longtime Edgewater mayor who died in 1994, their brother William said: "I think Dennis carried more passion. Mac was a very smooth, calm person. Dennis would get excited about things, speak more about things that were right and wrong."
Dennis Meehan ran unsuccessfully for Edgewater Council in 1977. When crowned king of the borough's Lions Club that year, he joked about his political ambition, saying: "When I heard I could run for king, I couldn't wait for the chance."
Mr. Meehan moved to Carlsbad, Calif., in an agricultural region of San Diego County, in 1979. He went into real estate before returning to the moving business and was widely known in Carlsbad for advocating for better conditions for Hispanic migrant farm workers.
In a 1991 interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune, Mr. Meehan said he was ignorant of social issues when living in New Jersey. He said he became sensitized to the plight of farm workers when his children, while riding a train, witnessed the arrest of suspected illegal immigrants. He became active in Caring Residents of Carlsbad, a group that established a shelter for farm workers.
Mr. Meehan, who died March 20cq, is survived by his wife of 47 years, Jeanne; their five children, Colleen Jacobs, Shevaun McMichael and Michaela Sychtysz, cq all of Tennessee, Kevin Meehan of Singapore and Erin Coogan of Carlsbad; and 16 grandchildren.
He also leaves three brothers, William of River Edge, Thomas of Bethesda, Md., and Joseph of Shrewsbury, and five sisters, Mary Bodnar of Burke, Va., Alice Dalecki of Silver Spring, Md., Kathleen Riordan of Eatontown, Margaret Jones of Palm Beach County, Fla., and Rita Eaton of Atlantic Highlands.
A memorial service will be held June 9 at 10 a.m. at Most Blessed Sacrament R.C. Church in Franklin Lakes. Mr. Meehan's ashes will be interred at Christ the King Cemetery, also in Franklin Lakes.
Published in The Record on June 1, 2012