An otherwise routine township committee meeting turned emotional on January 25 when longtime committee member and former Mayor Frank Van Horn made a surprise return after a lengthy illness.
“Well, I’m back,” Van Horn modestly stated.
Van Horn developed meningitis about three months ago and quickly fell into a coma that lasted nine days. He said the illness caused his brain to swell leading to partial paralysis, from which he is now recovering.
His fellow committee members and those in the public were visibly but happily stunned to see him walk into the meeting room on his own, with only the aid of a cane.
Van Horn had served as mayor in 2023, one of numerous terms he has served during his nearly 40 years serving on the township committee. Debra Shipps, deputy mayor during that time, has filled in and was elected mayor at the reorganization meeting held earlier this month.
Van Horn’s wife, Mary, told Shipps she had Frank’s blessings to take the gavel.
“We’re really glad to have him back,” Shipps said, adding that his expertise about the township is unmatched.
During the reorganization, Shipps said the committee could, under state rules, give Van Horn a leave of up to four months before he would have to decide if he wanted to continue serving.
He didn’t even need four weeks.
Joe Phalon, Contributing Writer
Joe was lured out of retirement by the opportunity to be a part of the Ridge View Echo. During a decades-long career in publishing and journalism, he has covered government on many levels from local school boards to the United States Supreme Court.
Along the way, Joe has worked at American Lawyer Magazine, The National Law Journal and The Record among other publications, and as the Press Officer of Columbia Law School. His work has been recognized with several first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Jersey Press Association.
Being part of the Ridge View Echo brings Joe back to his roots and the kind of news coverage he loves: Telling the stories of people and local communities as well as keeping an eye on how their money is spent by their government officials.
Joe lives in Blairstown with his wife Rose, the founder of Quilting for a Cause, and their two wiener dogs. He is an artist in his spare time.