Happy 200-year-old double birthday!

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UNION COUNTY, NJ — On Sunday, Feb. 18, Marilyn Hart, 98, and brother-in-law Joe Schott, 102, celebrated their joint birthdays, totaling 200 years. Marilyn had married David Hart, who had the same birthday as his sister, Nancy Hart, who married Joe. The two couples only had two birthdays between the four of them, so they always celebrated together. David and Nancy have since died.

Forty-eight friends and family had a joint birthday celebration on Sunday, Feb 18, at Lantern Hill Retirement Community in New Providence. They came from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Dr. D. Michael Hart was master of ceremonies and spoke about his mom, Marilyn. Dr. Margaret Schott coordinated the accolades from her four siblings about their father, Joe. Professionally trained singer Brian Hart, a graduate of Syracuse University School of Performing Arts, led the group in singing “Happy Birthday.”

Dr. Marilyn McGuire Hart was valedictorian of Holy Trinity High School in Westfield, Class of 1944, but her parents would not send her to college because they figured she would just get married and have babies. So, after high school, Marilyn worked for the phone company “Ma Bell” as a service representative. She eventually married David, who was a teacher in Westfield, and they settled in Mountainside. After having three children, Marilyn started her college education. She finished her doctorate in education 20 years later. Imagine 20 years of night school!

During those two decades, Marilyn was working, raising children, going to night school and volunteering in the community. She became a full professor, teaching educational psychology at Kean University, and was made professor emeritus upon her retirement. Her volunteer activities included serving as the chairperson of the March of Dimes, Cub Scout den mother, Girls Softball League, Girl Scouts and Mountainside Music Association.

She was elected to the Regional High School Board of Education and served for six years, then subsequently ran for Mountainside Town Council and served for an additional six years. She was the first woman elected to the Council in 150 years and eventually became the council president. She advocated for women’s rights, including “equal pay for equal work” in the township. Marilyn was married to David for 65 years.

In addition to her three children, she has seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. She is proud that her offspring have nine college degrees and six graduate degrees among them.

Joe Schott is from the “Greatest Generation.” That generation is characterized by: a strong work ethic; personal responsibility; humility; a commitment to marriage and family; and faith in God and the future. These characteristics describe Joe exactly. He lived through the Great Depression, was stationed overseas in Londonderry during World War II, attended the same church for more than 60 years, raised five children and was married to his wife Nancy for 66 years. He is very optimistic, has a good sense of humor and is always looking at the bright side of life.

Joe served in the Navy during World War II, outfitting ships with radar in preparation for the D-Day Normandy Invasions. Joe is active in the VFW and served as grand marshal of the 2019 Fanwood Memorial Day Parade. His career after the Navy was in research at Bell Labs in Berkeley Heights, where he worked for a time with a Nobel Prize laureate and met three others.

During his lifetime, Joe has done a lot of volunteer work, including 12 years of weekly visits with young boys at Children’s Specialized Hospital, the Fanwood Recycling Center, several historical restorations in Fanwood and as an assistant scoutmaster for the Fanwood Boy Scout Troop. One day, driving down to the Jersey shore, Joe saw a young boy drowning. He stopped the car, swam out and saved the boy’s life, and received accolades from the borough of Red Bank.

After departing the labs in 1984, Joe joined a group of retired men, who volunteered to help maintain the Boy Scout camps. The Boy Scouts of America have given him many awards including Trailblazer, Silver Beaver and Camping Hall of Fame.

Photos Courtesy of Dr. D. Michael Hart