By Muriel Smith
ATLANTIC CITY_ Freeholder Director Lillian Burry was honored as a Woman of Distinction by the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs at its 123rd annual convention at the Golden Nugget Monday night, the first Monmouth County Freeholder to ever be accorded the honor.
In accepting the honor, Burry joined the ranks of such luminaries as Deborah Tobias Poritz, the first woman to be both Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court and state Attorney General, Virginia Bauer, former state Secretary of Commerce, and Dr. Formica Palma, the first woman president of the Medical Society of New Jersey and the Academy of Medicine of New Jersey.
Burry was nominated by Barbara B. Mitchell of Middletown, a long time active member of the Federation and the Women’s Club of Middletown.
Mitchell said she made the nomination to laud Burry’s contributions to both preservation and history over several decades, dating to when she was a councilmember in Matawan and spearheaded the preservation of wetlands surrounding Matawan Creek, restoring the historic Burrowes Mansion, an 18th century landmark on the borough’s main street, and exposing the illegal waste and hazardous materials dumping in Burnt Fly Bog, Marlboro, now a federal Superfund site open as a public park, among numerous other accomplishments.
State Federation President Jean L Revis presented the award to Burry and pointed out that “there has been no woman who could match what Lillian G. Burry has accomplished over the years in the areas of preservation of historic sites, farmland and open space.” She also praised Burry’s accomplishments as Mayor of Colts Neck when she created the township’s Open Space and Farmland Preservation Committee which served as a model for other towns to develop in maintaining the state’s stature as the Garden State. Revis also pointed to Burry’s more recent accomplishments both as a member and Director of the Board of Freeholders where in addition to her land preservation efforts and dedication to education and entertainment through a vast county library system, she serves on the Fort Hancock 21st Century Advisory Committee for the national Department of the Interior as well as the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority leading to the redevelopment of Fort Monmouth property after the former army installation was BRACed by Congress and closed.
Burry accepted the award before a standing room only audience and said she felt honored to be among so many women of achievement. “When I see the accomplishments of my fellow honorees and those of the great women who have been chosen in years past, I can only find it both humbling and challenging – inspiring me to work even harder to live up to the high standards others have set.”
Reflecting on what it means to be a successful woman, Burry said women face as many challenges as men, only different. She has met these challenges, she said, “by first being who I am rather than what I am and pursuing success on my own individual terms without compromising the values that make me proud to be seen as a successful woman.” She described being successful as “making the most of the advantages feminine capacities bring while consciously working to develop the skills successful men take for granted. Above all, it’s having a persistence of vision, finding a path in life to follow, getting on it and keeping to it, regardless of what may come to try to turn you from it.”
Blending private and public lives for Burry means long work hours, compromises and sacrifices. But it also means happiness, a sense of personal and professional fulfillment grained only through living a well balanced life.