Pinto was just a little boy when his father, who passed away last week after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease at the age of 95, threw a party at the family's summer house in Blairstown in Warren County.
"I was about 7 years old and my father had this summer party," Frank Pinto recalled. "He invited Robert Meyner to the party and Meyner was the governor at the time [Meyner served from1954 to 1962]. Sure enough, Governor Meyner came to the party. I never forgot that. My father had a barbecue and he got the governor of New Jersey to come."
Not only was Alphonse Pinto a veteran police officer in North Bergen, serving more than 25 years as a beloved patrolman and helping to form the North Bergen Police Athletic League more than 50 years ago, but he was a major player in the political makeup of the township from the time of World War II through the tumult of the Vietnam War and beyond.
Pinto was a member of the Hudson County Democratic committee for almost 30 years, serving the people of North Bergen as a dedicated committeeman.
Pinto was also the long-time chairman of the powerful Midtown Democratic Club. If you were a Hudson County politician and wanted to get elected, you needed the support of the Midtown club and Al Pinto.
"They all came, the politicians from Jersey City, the freeholders, the congressmen, even state Senators," Frank Pinto said. "They all knew they needed Dad's help to get the votes."
Born in 1911
Alphonse Pinto was born in Italy in 1911, but moved to North Bergen with his family to when he was just 6 months old. Al Pinto never left his beloved North Bergen. He became a naturalized citizen the day he turned 18 years old. He was proud to be an American and proud to be from North Bergen.
"He was the county committeeman when I was the principal at Lincoln School," North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco recalled. "I knew Al and his family for many years. Frank and I were friends when we were younger. Al was a go-getter. He was a gentleman and a fine person. He was definitely an asset to North Bergen in all the different capacities he served as."
While he was always indirectly involved in politics, Al Pinto became more of a player after retiring as a North Bergen police officer in 1969. In 1971, under the insistence of long-time friend and colleague Peter Mocco, Pinto became the chairman of the board with the Midtown Democratic Club.
Four years later, Pinto ran for the Board of Commissioners with Mocco and the two were elected, Mocco as mayor and Pinto as the commissioner in charge of public works.
Pinto remained in office until 1979, when he decided not to run for re-election, but Pinto remained active in the town until his mid 1980s, when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
"He never missed a commissioners' meeting and never missed the Mayor's Ball," Frank Pinto said. "He was always active. He never missed the senior citizen picnic. He really was something special, not just because he was my father. I had so many people come up to me and tell me how much he helped them."
Frank Pinto was particularly touched by one man who approached him during his father's wake last week.
"He came up to me after paying his respects and told me that my father saved him when he was a boy," Frank Pinto said. "He said that Dad could have locked him up for doing something wrong. Instead, Dad took him home to his parents and told his parents what he did. The man said that saved him. I was touched. I miss him already."
Al Pinto had just one son, but had five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
"It was always about the good for the people of North Bergen," Frank Pinto said. "The guy just loved people and loved North Bergen. He told everyone that he was a cop. He had pride in being a cop and he was overjoyed when I became a captain. I think when I became a captain, he told everyone in the state."
Sacco said that Pinto served the community well.
"He's going to be missed," Sacco said. "He was a good commissioner, easy to approach, easy to talk to. If there was a problem, he got right to it. He even drove around with the DPW trucks to make sure things got done. He was always around, even when he got older, until recently. I'm really going to miss him."
Sacco ordered the black and purple buntings of mourning to be placed outside Town Hall in Pinto's memory.
Frank Pinto was asked how his father will be best remembered.
"I think he'll be remembered for giving favors for half the town," Frank Pinto said. "He was always doing favors for everyone. He was always thinking of others before himself. He was truly a North Bergen guy, through and through. He really loved helping the people of North Bergen."
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or email@example.com