Martin F. McKernan Jr., Camden lawyer and prolific public servant, dies at 75


Martin F. McKernan Jr., 75, of Cherry Hill, a longtime Camden lawyer dedicated to public service and private philanthropy, died Tuesday Aug. 3 of pancreatic cancer at his home on Long Beach Island.

A prolific public servant, Mr. McKernan served as Camden Town Attorney from 1974 to 1979 and for years was an advisor to the town’s housing, redevelopment and parking authorities. He has also worked with, among others, the Camden County Social Services Board, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Camden and the Audubon Mutual Housing Corporation.

Privately, Mr. McKernan has not shied away from showing the compassion and empathy his family and friends say he equates to his parents and the Catholic faith. He was known for his daily acts of kindness, big and small, many of which were not revealed until much later, that left people better off – and often inspired.

“Every day he helped someone who was less fortunate than him. Every day, ”said Lexie Norcross, a longtime friend and one of Mr. McKernan’s two goddaughters. “His kindness was endless. “

“Having a brother like him,” said his younger sister, Regina Harm, “it was like hitting the jackpot.”

Officials noted that Mr. McKernan’s civic roots in Camden run deep, his impacts on more than half a century of service far reaching.

In a statement, Camden County Commissioner Louis Cappelli Jr.’s director said McKernan has helped “virtually every area of ​​life in the Garden State.”

Camden Mayor Victor Carstarphen wrote that Mr. McKernan “channeled his fervent faith as a Roman Catholic and his unparalleled expertise as a lawyer to improve the lives of countless residents of Camden”.

“Marty’s 50 years in the legal world and his commitment to the city have been unmatched, his kindness to his fellow man and his integrity in all he has done was unparalleled,” said the former mayor of Camden, Dana Redd, in a statement.

Born September 24, 1945, Mr. McKernan grew up in Camden and Haddonfield. He graduated from St. Joseph’s Prep in 1963 and, after a short stop at St. Francis Seminary in Loretto, Pa., Graduated from St. Joseph’s University in 1968.

He graduated from Georgetown University in 1971 and became Camden City’s youngest lawyer at age 29. He later became a partner with his father, Martin F. McKernan, and his friend Jim Godino at McKernan, McKernan & Godino; a commissioner for the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority; and administrator, among others, of the Camden Center for Law and Social Justice and the Camden Free Public Library.

“I learned more from him, sitting in his office, than I ever did in law school,” Godino said.

Although rarely totally inactive – he got calls from clients on almost every vacation – Mr McKernan enjoyed creating and sharing Manhattans with friends, watching British TV shows, traveling Europe and the Caribbean and quoting Winston Churchill.

“He made the best Manhattan ever,” said his longtime friend Bill Hankowsky. “Stirred. Not shaken.

He served in the Army Reserves in the 1970s, quietly donating money and goods to those in need, mentoring countless young people, and supporting local businesses during the height of the pandemic. of COVID-19.

He rarely missed a family celebration and could tell a story that would spellbound the room. “When he was there,” Godino said, “it all started.”

“He was as nice to the janitor or the clerk as he would be to the bishop or the president,” his sister said. “His loss leaves me beyond words.”

In addition to his younger sister, Mr. McKernan is survived by his sister Theresa Donahue and other relatives. Another sister, Monica Holland, died earlier.

A visitation is scheduled for Friday August 6 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Alloway Funeral Home, 315 East Maple Ave., Merchantville, NJ 08109.

A funeral mass will be held at noon on Saturday August 7th at Christ Our Light Catholic Church, 402 Kings Highway North, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034. Interment will follow at Calvary Cemetery, Rt. 70, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034.

Donations in her name can be made to Saint-Joseph Preparatory School, 1733 W. Girard Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19130; Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Camden, 1845 Haddon Ave., Camden, NJ 08104; and the Parish of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 642 Market St., Camden, NJ 08102.

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