Frank Joseph Vecchione, respected lawyer and beloved father, grandfather, brother and friend, passed away peacefully at his home in West Caldwell, New Jersey, on April 24, 2020 at the age of 84, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
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The youngest of 8 children, he was born on June 11, 1935 in Newark, New Jersey to Francesco and Filomena Vecchione, who had immigrated from Italy to the United States. His parents started Vecchione’s bread bakery in the Old First Ward Italian neighborhood of Newark, and the entire family pitched in to make the family business a success. Frank took great pride in both his Italian heritage and in his hometown of Newark, and he followed the city's recent revitalization with keen interest.
Frank became the first person in his family to attend college, which was a source of great pride to his parents and siblings. He graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in Political Science and as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army through the ROTC program. In college, he met Polly Plaisted, the woman to whom he would be married for 60 years. They started their life together serving for two years in the Army at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and Fort Dix, New Jersey, during which they made many lifelong friends. With a growing family to support, Frank transitioned from military service on to a full-time job at the Prudential in Newark, earning his law degree at night at Seton Hall Law school.
In 1965, he joined the law firm that shortly thereafter became known as Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione. (In 2007, the firm shortened its name to just “Gibbons”.) He built the bankruptcy practice at the firm and earned the unofficial title of “the Dean of the New Jersey Bankruptcy Bar”. His commanding and authoritative presence throughout his 50 year career ensured that when he talked, people listened.
Fred Alworth, a colleague at the firm, summed up Frank’s reputation and career in a tribute that appeared in the New Jersey Law Journal when Frank retired. He was “tough as nails, a gentleman and mentor who led by example and shaped the lives of so many. A prolific attorney who never lost his temper, cool, calm under pressure, guiding clients through the most difficult times in their professional lives when their financial worlds were caving in. Nobody was more respected in the courtroom. Nobody.
“Many of his bankruptcy cases would involve every discipline of the practice— corporate, litigation, real estate, labor, tax. Organically, we at the firm would gravitate to Frank for counsel and advice, but he encouraged us to argue it out and come back with our suggestions to workshop, as a law school professor would do. He treated everyone with respect, never forgetting his humble beginnings. A true pioneer of the New Jersey Bankruptcy Bar, he helped shape not only our firm but the Federal Bankruptcy practice for decades."
In 1992 Frank was honored as outstanding alumnus of the year at Seton Hall University School of Law, where he was also an adjunct professor for 25 years teaching a course in debtor-creditor relations and bankruptcy.
Among his many professional honors, he was a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association, he was inducted to the American Bankruptcy Institute as a Fellow in the American College of Bankruptcy, and he was elected to Fellowship in the American Bar Foundation. As a nationally respected expert on debtor/creditor rights, he was a frequent author and speaker on those topics, and was recognized as a leading lawyer in this practice area by Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, Super Lawyers, and Best Lawyers®.
Frank was a passionate supporter of the Shepherds of Youth, which supports the Saint Michael School in Newark and the Vocationist Fathers and Sisters. He served as a Board Trustee and started their “Adopt-A-Kid” program which provides financial assistance to enable children to attend the school who could not otherwise afford it.
Within his family, Frank was a respected source of support and advice to anyone facing a difficult decision. His successful career was an inspiration to his nieces, nephews and children. He insisted that if you do what you love, success would follow. He instilled in his children the importance of hard work, strong ethics, honesty, integrity, and humility. And, as a revered Pop-Pop, he delighted in the escapades of his seven grandchildren.
Frank relaxed by playing golf at the Glen Ridge Country Club where he was a member for over 40 years, and was proud of his two holes-in-one, especially the one he made at the prestigious Baltusrol Golf Club . He and Polly loved hosting friends and family for dinners and parties at their home which always had an open door for their kids and their kids’ friends. He liked a glass of scotch and a good cigar. He enjoyed going out to dinner, especially if it involved crusty Italian bread, Pittsburgh style steak or linguini with clams.
A life well lived – a gentleman and a scholar.
Frank is survived by his children, Amy Vecchione and her partner Tim Goplerud; Carrie Vecchione and her husband Rolf Erdahl and their children Ada and Ella; Jennifer and Robert Portman and their children Emily, Jon and Abby; and Matt and Maria Vecchione and their children Nicholas and Alec; and his sister Yolanda Clarizio. His wife of 60 years, Polly Plaisted Vecchione, pre-deceased him in 2017.
Private funeral arrangements were made by Caggiano Memorial Funeral Home, and a memorial celebration will be scheduled for a future date. Condolences and memories can be posted on Caggiano’s website at Caggianomemorial.com.
Donations can be made to
‘Shepherds of Youth Charitable Trust’
(write “Frank J Vecchione Adopt-A-Kid program” in the memo).
Shepherds of Youth
641 Shunpike Rd.
Chatham, NJ 07928