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60th Anniversary

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NewBridge Honors co-Founder Herbert Irwin During Its 60th Year

Friday, March 17, 2023

Judge Herbert Irwin was one of the five founders of NewBridge Services.Debbie Burklow perused a basket filled with dozens of condolence cards received after her father, Judge Herbert Irwin, died in 2010 at age 88. Many were from people Burklow didn’t know, who described how much Irwin had helped them overcome challenges, how he’d given them their first job, the kindness and compassion he’d shown.

“It was incredible for me to read these notes and realize my father had touched the lives of so many people,” Burklow said.

Irwin had been a private person, Burklow said. Growing up she knew little about his community involvement, including co-founding the Pequannock Valley Mental Health Center in 1963. The nonprofit was created to ensure people with mental health problems could access professional treatment close to home.

Dedicated to his Community

In a moving eulogy given at Irwin’s funeral, Burklow’s husband, Miles, outlined Irwin’s life and deep faith. In one part, he said: “For Herb, duty was not an onerous unwanted obligation. Rather, it was an opportunity for him to do his part to build and  repay a community from which he benefitted.”

Irwin was 8 years old when his father died. His mother raised him and his two brothers in Ramsey. Irwin earned top grades in high school and a scholarship to Rutgers University, supporting himself through college by playing piano at functions and washing dishes at a fraternity. “Education was incredibly important to him,” Burklow said.

Decorated World War II Veteran

He joined the Marines during World War II during his senior year. Irwin participated in the Battle of Iwo Jima in the Pacific, and watched from a bunker as fellow Marines raised the American flag on the island’s Mount Suribachi, Burklow said. Irwin, who rose to the rank of captain, was awarded a Bronze Star with a “V” for valor. He later shared his experiences through Rutgers Oral History Archives. 

Irwin was accepted to Harvard Law School, and married after graduating. He promised to raise children in the Roman Catholic faith, his wife’s religion, though he was active in the Lutheran church, Burklow said. He and Marie, his wife of 52 years, had two children, Herbert W. Irwin and Burklow.

Municipal Judge for 35+ Years

The family lived in Pompton Plains, where Irwin practiced law. Irwin served as municipal judge of Pequannock, Riverdale, and Jefferson Township for more than 35 years. Between his law practice, the judicial posts and his involvement in various civic organizations, Irwin kept busy. He had reputation for encouraging young adults who appeared before him to better their lives. In 1967, he was named Citizen of the Year by the American Legion Post 242.

Even after retiring in 1990, Irwin set up an office in his home’s basement, where he often held a different kind of court, sharing stories from his life. He drove to seniors’ homes to draft their wills, and paid for his secretary to achieve her goal of becoming a paralegal. “He loved to serve,” Burklow said.

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