Fred Chichester and Pat Kenschaft, with their car collection. KATE ALBRIGHT/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCALThe recent passing of Fred Chichester leaves our town with the loss of a citizen who was actively dedicated for decades to bettering Montclair.

From the onset of my editorship of The Montclair Times in 1998 until Gannett ended the editor positions of its New Jersey weekly newspapers in 2016, Fred Chichester and and his spouse, Pat Kenschaft, submitted myriad letters to me to be published. His, her and their letters focused on many topics — environmental, humanitarian, educational and the proper operations of municipal matters, such as why some Montclair and Essex County streets in town don’t have sidewalks on both sides even when there’s space for them.

At times, they submitted such a flurry of letters to be published that I was justified in limiting letters written by any person to once every three weeks. I worked with Fred and Pat on this; a couple of times, when Pat hadn’t reached her three-week span between letters, Fred replaced her name for his so the letter could appear.

The couple was the self-generating subject of ongoing news and feature coverage. For dozens of years, Fred and Pat were Montclair’s most prominent opponents of leaf blowers, and their unending activism prompted elected officials to constrict leaf-blower operations.

Every year, the couple held open gardens in their back yard, inviting folks to observe their flourishing vegetables, emulate their avoidance of insecticides and herbicides, and replicate their use of fallen leaves as fertilizer for the next round of flora. As I finish this letter and prepare to carry a trash can to the curb for collection, I recall a newspaper feature noting how Pat and Fred generated almost no household waste.

A collector of older automobiles, Fred had opinionated insights about the most reliable engines and best model years of different cars, often delivered with a dry, wry wit.

As a community activist, Fred wasn’t cowed by confrontation. Until the Montclair Police Department made him cease, noting that in New Jersey making arrests and issuing summonses are limited to law-enforcement professionals, Fred handed out “citizen tickets” to school-bus and car drivers who idled the engines longer than the legal mandate allowed.

I trust that Fred’s passing may prompt a cosmic recycling of his sensibilities.

Mark S. Porter

The author is the former editor of the Montclair Times, and serves on the Montclair Local Advisory Board.


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