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Phillipsburg to consider renaming park for resident who ‘lost his battle with addiction’

Phillipsburg to consider naming park for resident who ‘lost his battle with addiction’

Jesse Delgado's photo from his obituary published on lehighvalleylive.com is inset against a photo of Mercer Street Playground on Thursday, July 28, 2021. Phillipsburg Town Council Vice President Bobby Fulper proposes renaming the park for Delgado, who died July 7, 2020, following a battle with addiction, Fulper said.Courtesy and Kurt Bresswein photos | For lehighvalleylive.com

Incorporated as a town in 1861, named for settler William Phillips, Phillipsburg has honored its share of contributors to its 160-year history.

A new proposal being floated by a town councilman would recognize someone who might be considered an everyman, flawed but a valued member of the community nonetheless.

Jesse Delgado died a year ago, at age 42 on July 7, 2020, having “lost his battle with addiction” and succumbing to a suspected overdose, said town council Vice President Bobby Fulper.

But he was more than that, Fulper said in urging council to support at its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 3, renaming Mercer Street Park for Delgado.

Delgado, who was living in Pen Argyl at the time of his death, grew up on Mercer Street and could be found “almost daily” at the park near Mercer and River streets, playing basketball with neighborhood children, Fulper said. Delgado was also a gifted baseball player in his youth, was a father of four who battled thyroid cancer in his 30s and worked to support others battling substance abuse, Fulper said.

“Unfortunately after years of struggling with his diagnosed mental illness, we lost him,” Fulper told a silent audience at council’s meeting July 20. “But we have an opportunity an opportunity at the next meeting to allow his memory to live on and recognize the fact that there probably shouldn’t be a stigma with addiction.

“It can happen to anyone. No he wasn’t a superhero, he didn’t save lives, he didn’t save anybody from a fire. But he was somebody in this town.”

Council President Frank McVey at the July 20 meeting thanked Fulper for the “heartfelt” and “truthful” proposal, and Fulper said he believed he had support for the proposal, at least initially, from Councilman Harry Wyant Jr.

Wyant was did not immediately return a call for comment.

Councilman Randy Piazza Jr. also knew Delgado, who he described as “a very good person.”

“He would go out of his way to help anyone in need,” Piazza said Friday. “Unfortunately, he had problems of his own that he was unable to overcome. I personally feel that is why he was so helpful to others. He was going to fix others problems even if he couldn’t fix his own.

“Jesse not only represents the virtues of people we all know but their flaws. He was an honest person and it’s an honest portrayal.”

Fulper’s idea, which he said also has the support of the Phillipsburg Recreation Advisory Committee and Recreation Superintendent DJ Kophazy, is for council to rename what is labeled on its signage Mercer Street Playground as Jesse Delgado Memorial Park or Jesse Delgado Recovery Park -- Delgado Park for short. Fulper further envisions building a memorial wall there that “would reveal the amount of those loved ones that we have lost here in our community to addictions.”

“The idea behind the park being memorialized in his name is because Jesse is the face of a typical guy from Phillipsburg who was talented and mattered to so many … and he succumbed to the epidemic that we see daily,” Fulper said Friday. “We want everyone in this town to know that despite their socioeconomic status, despite their struggles, despite their popularity or lack thereof, and despite whether or not they have made mistakes or not … they matter. Just like Jesse mattered.

“We want them to know Phillipsburg cares about everyone equally and without judgment … the same way Jesse cared.”

Phillipsburg Town Council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Phillipsburg Senior Center, 310 Firth St.

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Kurt Bresswein may be reached at kbresswein@lehighvalleylive.com.