Charles H. Newman, Lifelong advocate for individuals with disabilities
On Sunday, November 8, 2020, members of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Trustees of New Jersey Connect and family members gathered at the Freeman Apartments, 41 Hillside Avenue in Springfield, to honor Charles Newman who passed away earlier this year. In remember “Charlie,” the group dedicated the driveway to the complex as “Charles Newman Way” in his honor.
Mr. Newman was 16 years old when he broke his neck in a high school football game. Despite the personal challenges that his own quadriplegia created, Newman dedicated his life to helping others, through the New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, as Director of Union County Office of the Disabled and Chairman of the Union County Advisory Board for the Disabled. However, his work reached further than just Union County or New Jersey. Newman worked to ensure passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and was invited to the signing ceremony by President George H.W. Bush.
Newman was a founding Board Member and, for twenty years, President of New Jersey Connect, Inc., a non-profit organization with a mission to create affordable, barrier-free housing so persons with physical disabilities could live independently in the community with dignity and independence. The Freeman Apartments is one of the organization’s flagship projects and was the site for today’s ceremonies. It is a 14-unit, fully accessible apartment building, built in 2001 in collaboration with the Township of Springfield, Union County, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, with support from the Kessler Foundation.
In presenting a resolution of condolence to Newman’s family, Freeholder Chairman Alexander Mirabella recounted once asking Newman if he needed any help and being told “no, I got it.” Mirabella never again needed to be reminded that those with physical disabilities can be independent if we create a barrier-free environment for everyone.
This article first appeared in the Springfield Patriot Chamber of Commerce in November 2020.