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Chief Bill Polhemus Passes

Bill has been known as “Sheriff Polhemus” for many years now, but he was known as “Chief” by the Seaside Heights police department and community before he retired and moved on to county government. Bill was also a member of the Seaside Heights Volunteer Fire Company for many decades, among numerous local organizations he belonged to, and was a strong supporter of Ocean Air Support Squadron (a volunteer flight organization that I am associated with that serves the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department).  Bill’s loss is sad news for our community. Condolences from all of us to Bill’s wife “Aggie” – Councilwoman Agnes Polhemus – and to his daughter and grandchildren.

Bill was one of the town’s few remaining links to the pioneer days of Seaside Heights. His grandparents, Mr. Samual McNicholl and Helen Gallagher McNicholl, resided along what was later named Dupont Avenue even before Manhasset Realty carved the town into lots and started selling. Bill’s father was a local contractor and built many of the early homes and commercial buildings in town.

Living directly across the street from Bill and Aggie during my high school years was always interesting, especially when my sister and I threw one of our Saturday night parties when Tony & Mary Ellen were out of town. But I’m fairly sure that he never ratted me out! In later years, I enjoyed our conversations about Seaside Heights history. He had so many personal memories and great stories he loved to tell. I learned something new from him every conversation.

Viewings for Bill will be held at the Timothy Ryan Funeral Home, 145 St. Catherine Blvd. in Toms River, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday.  The funeral service will be held at the same location at 11 a.m. Friday. Bill will be buried at Ocean County Memorial Park.

Here are some photos of Bill from The Terry Groffie Collection, The Dr. Anthony E. & Mary Ellen Vaz Collection, and the Seaside Heights Volunteer Fire Company Museum Collection. You can enlarge the images with your mouse.

040_75th   003Polhemus_1

Nate Ready For Anything  170

Kohr’s Fire 1976

I was a few months from turning 9 years old when this fire struck Kohr’s Original Custard and Whistle Stop at Franklin Avenue & Boardwalk. I remember the plectron tones waking us up, followed by the sounds of the firehouse siren blaring for what seemed like 10-15 minutes. My father ran out the door to the firehouse as my mother and I followed him onto the front steps of our home at 119 Franklin Avenue. We looked one block east toward the Boardwalk, and I remember seeing a tall ball of flames shooting into the air. My mother dressed my brother and sister and we walked with a hurried pace toward the Boardwalk. She was visibly worried about my father. We joined a group of local residents that had formed behind the police line and watched the area fire companies fight the blaze. Women and children pointed out their husbands and fathers (it was an all male fire crew back then) with a sense of relief. And I can also remember the Ladies Auxiliary staging at the fire ground and serving water and coffee.  Not as bad as the 1955 or 1965 fires for sure, but this was a bad fire nonetheless!  From The Dr. Anthony E. & Mary Ellen Vaz Collection.

  

  

  

B. Dionisio, M. Graichen, G. Mazzanti and A. Raniero

There’s a lot of Seaside Heights history among these four former borough councilmen. In the first photo from the late 1970s – early 1980s era, Bob Dionisio, Anthony Raniero, Mike Graichen, and Guy Mazzanti (l-r) stand alongside the town’s new beach rake machine at the Borough Plant on Grant Avenue.  Bob Dionisio has owned numerous businesses in Seaside Heights over the years and these days can be found at Park Seafood on the Boardwalk helping out the owner – his son Nick.  Anthony Raniero was a local builder and motel owner before leaving Seaside Heights.  Mike Graichen owned the towel stand on the Boardwalk at Webster Ave. for many years before moving to the North End where today he owns and operates Lucky’s Arcade.  Folding towels at the stand for Mike was my first job as a kid. Nickel a dozen. Then a dime a dozen. I “retired” at a quarter a dozen.

Guy Mazzanti worked for the family’s food market on the southeast corner of Blaine Ave. & Central Ave and operated the LaFontana Motel and other local apartment complexes in the borough. His family’s roots in Seaside Heights go back more than 50 years.  Guy is an active member of the Seaside Heights Vol. Fire Company and served as fire chief for a time.  All four of them had children who grew up in town and went through the Hugh J. Boyd Elementary School. In fact, Stacey Dionisio (Smith) returned to the school as a teacher (joining her mother Marsha)!  Great people like these made growing up in Seaside Heights the memorable experience that it was.