Home>Governor>Joyce Harbourt, Gov. Cahill’s secretary, dies at 82

Joyce Harbourt. (Photo: Varcoe-Thomas Funeral Home).

Joyce Harbourt, Gov. Cahill’s secretary, dies at 82

Ex-statehoue worker served as Mercer GOP vice chair, secretary at the N.J. Republican State Committee

By David Wildstein, May 19 2023 1:59 pm

Joyce Harbourt, who served as personal secretary to Gov. William T. Cahill from 1970 to 1974, died on April 2.  She was 82.

Herbourt worked in the statehouse from 1960 to 1975, where she met Olaf W.B. Harbourt, a state trooper assigned to Gov. Richard J. Hughes.

In 1970, Herbourt made headlines when she was hit in a head-on crash on Route 29 by a car driven by a Delaware man who admitted to being on LSD.   She suffered fractures of her right leg and left arm after her car was sent spinning into the fence at the Villa Victoria Academy.

Cahill sought re-election in 1973, but lost the Republican primary to Rep. Charles Sandman.  When he left office in January 1974, Harbourt went with him to become his personal secretary at the Princeton law firm he joined.

In 1977, Herbourt joined the New Jersey Republican State Committee as the secretary to the GOP State Chairman, David Norcross.

She was elected Mercer County Republican vice chair in 1978.

The following year, after the county chairman, Bob Gladstone, changed his mind and sought re-election (Gladstone was managing what would be a successful bid by Bill Mathesius to become county executive, but his would-be successor, Kenneth Zauber, faced an unexpected illness), Harbourt instead ran for secretary; former Hamilton Township Republican Club President Christina Wilder became the new vice chair.

The venerable Dorothy Seltzer succeeded Harbourt as personal secretary to the new governor, Brendan Byrne.  Seltzer remained in that post during Thomas Kean’s eight years as governor and into the start of Jim Florio’s administration.  Seltzer finished her career working for Roger Bodman at Public Strategies Impact before her retirement.

Later, Harbourt joined the Medical Inter Insurance Exchange, first as an executive assistant to the president and later as a meeting planner.  She retired in 1993.

A Hamilton native – her father was a police lieutenant there —  Harbourt studied at Rider University and raised her family in Hopewell.  She competed in the New Jersey Miss Universe contest in 1961.

Predeceased by her husband in 1999, she is survived by her children and grandchildren, and her partner of nearly two decades, Joseph Cappelletti.

A celebration of Harbourt’s life will be held from 11-3 PM on May 21 at The Stone Terrace by John Henry in Hamilton.

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