You can take the boy out of Paterson, but you can’t take Paterson out of the boy.
That seems to have been a deep truth that gave meaning to the life of Joseph Taub of Tenafly, who died on Saturday at 88.
Mr. Taub grew up poor, became rich, successful, beloved, and happy, but he never forgot where he came from, and he never stopped supporting other kids, generations of Patersonians, as they grew up poor but — because of him — full of hope.
Joe Taub grew up in Paterson, the second son of two Eastern European immigrants, Sylvia and Morris Taub. His father was a junk dealer, his son-in-law, Scott Tesser, said. “He drove a horse and cart around Paterson, buying and selling junk.” Joe, like his older brother, Henry, went to East Side High School; they both missed World War II but grew into young adulthood just as it ended.
Henry Taub, who had gone to NYU, became an accountant. “He had a client whose bookkeeper was sick on the day that they were distributing payroll, so the employees didn’t get paid that day,” Mr. Tesser said. “So Henry came up with the idea that he could provide a service that would outsource payrolls.” It was 1949; that company, first called Automatic Payrolls, later called Automatic Data Processing, or ADP, became hugely successful.
Henry asked his younger brother to join the company. Joe, who was gifted working with people, according to just about everyone who talked about him, ran the operations, and Henry did the technical work. The Taubs soon took a third partner, Frank Lautenberg, who went on to become the Democratic U.S. senator from New Jersey.
Eventually ADP went public; Joe Taub retired when he was 40. “They were doing very well, and my father-in-law decided it was time to move on,” Mr. Tesser said.
He and his wife, Arlene, had three children, Sandra, Michelle, and Marc; they also had four grandchildren, and a seven-week-old great granddaughter. “One of the things that kept him going at the end was that he wanted to see his great grandchild,” Mr. Tesser said. “He didn’t get the chance to know her, but he did get to see her.”
Mr. Taub loved sports, and much of his life revolved around them.
He loved basketball — he played it in high school, and although he stopped playing after he left school, he never lost his love for watching it. “He was a real sports guy,” Mr. Tesser said. The two Taub brothers owned the New Jersey Nets for a few years. The Nets started on Long Island, and the Taubs brought it to New Jersey. “After he sold the team, it moved to Brooklyn, and that pretty much killed him,” Mr. Tesser said.
Mr. Taub also loved baseball. Larry Doby was the first African American to play in the American League — he played center field for the Cleveland Indians — and just the second to play major league baseball at all. “Joe and Larry grew up next to each other in Paterson,” Mr. Tesser said. “In those days, Paterson was a very mixed community of Jews and blacks.
“Growing up, my father-in-law and Larry were best friends. Larry had a very successful baseball career, and after it was over they continued to be very close friends.”
“My father-in-law started the Taub-Doby Basketball League. It’s a philanthropic entity; basically he provided a broad range of activities and scholarships for kids in Paterson. It’s for a combination of athletic and scholastic abilities; there are camps in the summer, to get the kids out of the city, and all different kinds of programs during the school year.
“It’s for both boys and girls, and it’s a way to give them a future.”
There have been professional athletes who have gone through the program, Mr. Tesser said; the most well known perhaps is Victor Cruz of the New York Giants. “He’s just one example of a kid who probably would have had a harder time getting to where he got without the program,” Mr. Tesser said. “There are students who excel, and Joe gave them scholarships to private schools or colleges.
“There is no real definition for the program. He just did whatever Paterson needed.
“If they needed a new basketball floor in the gym, he’d put it in. If they needed uniforms, he’d pay for them. He never forgot where he came from.
“He could walk down the worst street in Paterson, and everyone would know who he was,” Mr. Tesser said.
His father-in-law was a striking physical presence, he added; he was tall, with long white hair, and always well dressed. “Whenever he walked into the room, everyone would know it,” he said.
He owned race horses; “he was very involved in the science behind horse racing. He did a lot of trying to understand what made a horse run faster.”
It wasn’t that he was a gambler, Mr. Tesser explained. “He had been a gambler growing up, because that’s how he survived, but once he made his money, it wasn’t about gambling. He got involved with horses because he loved them, and he loved watching them run.” One of his horses, Sensitive Price, ran the Kentucky Derby in 1978; despite an early lead, however, he did not win.
It is possible, however, that the cause that was closest to his heart toward the end of his life was finding a cure for breast cancer. His oldest child, Sandra, died of breast cancer when she was 52, about 10 years ago. “After that, my in-laws funded breast cancer research,” Mr. Tesser said. “They donated a lot of money to all kinds of programs through the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, but most of their philanthropic work went toward the research side.”
Joe and Arlene Taub also were generous donors to the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, and to Temple Emanu-El, first when it was in Englewood and then when it moved to Closter — a move he helped to make possible, Mr. Tesser said.
Joe and Arlene and Henry and Marilyn Taub all lived in Tenafly, and the six children they had between them lived in Bergen County too. (Henry Taub died in 2011.) They’re all close; it’s all basically one big Taub tribe.
Henry and Marilyn have two sons, Ira and Steven, and a daughter, Judy. The two sons talked about their uncle (and if their sister were with them on the phone, they added, she would be saying exactly the same thing).
“Joe was famous for figuring out how to get his fun time in and make everyone happy,” Ira said; “But don’t forget that both he and our father were very hard workers,” Steven added. “Joe worked very long and hard hours; ADP’s success wouldn’t have been possible if they hadn’t worked that hard.
“Joe was the people motivator,” he continued. “Our dad used to say all the time that Joe could get people to move mountains. You just wanted to work with him. He was all about life, and all about living.
“He loved his brother — and it was entirely reciprocal. He would call our father ‘the Angel,’ or ‘the Ange.’ And that’s how he felt about everyone in the family. He was the best.”
Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner, who heads Temple Emanu-El in Closter, knew Joe Taub as a congregant and officiated at his funeral. “He traversed the socioeconomic ladder, and he never forgot each rung that he climbed,” Rabbi Kirshner said. “He was incredibly philanthropic in the community, and in Paterson.
“His son-in-law said that when Joe would leave a diner, he’d be sure to give the busboy a tip. He said that everyone tips the waiter, but the busboy works just as hard.”
Like Mr. Taub’s son-in-law and his nephews, Rabbi Kirshner stressed Mr. Taub’s commitment to breast cancer research. “They have been leading the charge to find a cure,” he said. “It is critically important to him.”
He has a clear visual memory of Mr. Taub.
“He was the most sharply dressed, dapper guy,” Rabbi Kirshner continued. “He was incredibly tall and incredibly handsome, with pale blue eyes. He’d flash you a smile, and you’d feel like the luckiest guy in the world.
“He knew that the life expectancy for someone born in his year was 72, and he saw every day after that as his birthday, and every night as New Year’s Eve.”