Adrian F. Heffern, Jr., a fabled old-school newspaper reporter and columnist who spent 45 years with the Asbury Park Press, died on April 17. He was 92.
Heffern began his journalism career with WJLK, a Monmouth County-based FM radio station that was launched in the 1940s by the Asbury Park Press in a bid to be part of the burgeoning radio news business. His job was to write fifteen-minute newscasts twice-a-day, and five minute newscasts that would at the top of the hour.
He went to work for the Asbury Park Press in 1954 as a part-time reporter making $15-per-week and was soon a full-timer staff writer. By 1958, Heffern ran the Press’ Red Bank bureau.
Around 1963, Heffern joined the newspaper’s statehouse bureau. In 1964, he covered the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City that nominated President Lyndon B. Johnson and the Republican National Convention in San Francisco that picked Senator Barry Goldwater as their nominee.
Rutgers University began offering a “Fundamentals for News Reporters” class in 1974 that as taught by Heffern and other veteran New Jersey journalists, including Angelo Baglivio of the Newark Evening News, S. Bolton Schwartz of the Herald News, and Robert Comstock of The (Bergen) Record.
In Trenton, Heffern covered the campaigns and administrations of governors Richard Hughes, William Cahill, Brendan Byrne, Tom Kean, Jim Florio and Christine Todd Whitman. He served as president of the New Jersey Legislative Correspondents Association in 1974.
He became the Asbury Park Press’ state editor in 1974, and by 1975 also held the title of associate editor.
Heffern wrote a column on New Jersey state government and politics that appeared in the Asbury Park Press on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning around the fall of 1977. It was a must-read for New Jersey politicos and Monmouth County politicians – the central New Jersey equivalent of the ones David Wald, Jim McQueeny and Fred Hillmann used to write for the Star-Ledger.
At the end of 1989, Heffern retired as a full-time Asbury Park Press employee but continued his political column – now appearing only on Sundays – until 1999. His final column was about U.S. Senator Bob Torricelli recruiting First Lady Hillary Clinton to run for the Senate in New York.
Born in Bayonne on March 23, 1927, Heffern grew up in Jersey City. His father, Adrian F. Heffern, Sr., was a contracting officer with the U.S. Chemical procurement division in New York and a World War II veteran.
He enlisted in the U.S. Navy at age 17 and severed as a signalman aboard the U.S.S. Koiner, a destroyer escort in the Pacific during World War II. After his discharge in 1945, he attended New Jersey State Teacher’s College and Montclair State.
Heffern’s wife of 63-years, Mary-Katherine, passed away in 2017. He is survived by his five children and nine grandchildren.
A visitation for friends will take place from 10-11 AM on Wednesday at the Poulson & Van Hise Funeral Directors in Lawrenceville, followed by a noon Mass of Christian Burial at The Church of St. Ann, also in Lawrenceville. Burial will be held at the Lawrenceville Cemetery.