Joseph (Joe) Marts, 84, passed away on October 6, 2023 in Livingston NJ after a brief illness. He leaves behind his beloved wife, Rita, his brother George, sons Jeffrey and Brian, daughter-in-laws Jennifer and Mary, and adored grandchildren, Emily and Laura.
Joe spent his early years in Union NJ before moving to Chatham in time for high school. Following an enlistment with the US Marine Corps, Joe returned to Chatham where he raised his family and lived the remainder of his life.
After completing studies at Seton Hall University, Joe began his working career as an insurance adjuster, leveraging his private detective license to root out fraudulent claims. Before starting a family, Joe became a real estate agent, where he excelled for over 30 years, holding many leadership positions in his field, including State Director of the New Jersey Association of Realtors. While most days Joe was impeccably dressed for work in a three-piece suit, he was always eager to dress down at the end of the day in a well-worn pair of blue jeans and spend time with his family.
Rita, the love of his life, was introduced to Joe on a double-blind date. In perhaps a cosmic sign, the seat of the car caught fire on the way to the restaurant that memorable night. Joe and Rita were married in 1970 and later had two sons, Jeffrey born in 1974 and Brian in 1976.
Joe was known for his passion for helping people and his civic commitment. He would often quote President Kennedy to his kids – ”ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”. In many respects, Joe embodied the ideal of helping others, through his lifelong work in public safety, to serving in local public offices, and always lending a hand to his friends and family.
Following 4 years in the Chatham Heavy Rescue, Joe’s public safety career began in earnest in 1960 when he joined the Chatham Boro Volunteer Fire Department, where he remained an active member for 60 years, responding to alarms into his early 80’s. Joe was frequently seen carrying the flag in front of the fire department in the 4th of July parade. As if firefighting wasn’t enough excitement, Joe also served as a special police officer in Chatham and as a deputy sheriff in Morris County.
After seeing his mother and her neighbors mistreated by an elected official at a public meeting, Joe decided to enter local politics to set things straight. He was elected mayor of Chatham for the 1976-1979 term, and later served on the town council and on various other boards, always with a commitment to serve the public.
Joe developed an eye and passion for photography, and became a freelance news photographer in the 1960’s. His photographs were staples in the local and regional papers for decades, as he covered all manner of local news. On two occasions, he ventured into Newark with his trusty Rollieflex camera during the riots of the late ‘60s. While these trips were pivotal adventures in his young adult years, his stark black and white photographs captured the depth of the national tragedy that unfolded before his lens.
Joe always loved a good story, enjoyed a good party and talking to strangers, and almost always left a strong impression (generally favorable) on those who met him.