Sure, Hamilton residents have owned businesses, gotten involved with politics, ranked at the top of boards of directors and even had long-lasting effects on the development of their community. But few aside from Maurice “Maury” Perilli have mastered all four at once.
After 65 years serving Hamilton Township in roles like mayor and 34 years leading Roma Financial Corp., Perilli, 92, has announced he’ll retire to a much calmer life than he’s ever experienced. Not that he minded being busy.
“It was never a hard day’s work,” Perilli said, despite his long list of responsibilities throughout the decades.
Since the 1940s, Perilli has owned two printing companies in Hamilton, served as township committeeman for 14 years and mayor for four years, served as an original trustee of Hamilton Hospital—now Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital-Hamilton—and moved up the ranks to chairman of the board of Roma Financial Corp., now based in Robbinsville. For some years, Perilli was tied into all organizations at once.
“When you’re 24 or 28 it’s not a burden,” Perilli said. “Five hours of sleep a night was enough.”
Perilli didn’t just get involved with organizations; he always exceeded the basic responsibilities.
“He threw himself into the community,” said Margaret Norton, a close friend and former colleague. “His whole life was Hamilton Township.”
Perilli served four years as mayor during his 14 years under Hamilton’s old committee system, in which mayors served one year terms, as elected by the rest of the committee. Perilli’s contributions during his years in the committee system are still prominent in Hamilton today. In 1968, Perilli dedicated Hamilton Park (now known as Veterans’ Park). He broke ground at sites to develop “center city,” which includes the police station, 1966, and public library, 1973. Perilli said his years as mayor were critical to population growth and Hamilton’s development from simple city suburb into a self-sufficient municipality.
Perhaps one of Perilli’s most prized accomplishments of his run as mayor was the formation of the first narcotics squad in Hamilton and all of Mercer County. He said there was an onslaught of drug abuse in Hamilton during the early 1970s, and Perilli used his position as mayor to take action. He handpicked a team of dedicated officers to jumpstart the squad.
“If I called them at three in the morning, they’d be there,” Perilli said. “They were eager to help.”
That kind of trust and commitment hasn’t been rare in the life and work of Perilli since. Those close to him said one of the qualities that makes Perilli so popular among the community is his ability to connect to the people around him.
“He never asked any of us to do something he wouldn’t do. His work ethic rubbed off on a lot of us,” Norton said. “There was a respect he had for anyone who worked for him. He just treated us all like his family.”
Toward the end of his career as mayor, Perilli merged the small bank Sanhican Savings and Loan—which he was president of—with Roma Bank, another community bank that then had only one office.
Even in the business world, Perilli combined his warm personality with his intelligence and quickly moved up the ranks. Perilli has held offices like executive vice president and, most recently, chairman of the Board of Directors, but he never lost his compassion for people.
Former State Senator and Roma Bank president and CEO Peter Inverso has known Perilli since the early ’70s.
“People like Maury don’t come along very often,” Inverso said. “He’s always had the facility to reach people one on one, and people responded in kind with him.”
Inverso said that the one thing he wanted to take away from Perilli was his ability to make people feel special. He would often sit at his desk and pen even the shortest “thank you” or “congratulations” notes for those he knew, and Inverso said he has always marveled at that.
Indeed, developing personal friendships along with business relationships was something that Perilli did well. It was even what bonded Perilli to Roma Bank in the first place.
Perilli said that the success of the bank is “a matter of passing on relationships. Our greatest asset is the confidence of our families. They build up a trust in dealing with you.”
It didn’t take long for the bank to turn into a home for him. Perilli often came into the office seven days a week. Even on Sundays, he would get the newspaper in the office, journey down the street to church in the mid-morning and return back to the office for the rest of the day. Norton can recall the mornings he would bring in coffee and breakfast for the staff.
“He had such a routine,” she said. “He was always working or out making contacts. [The retirement] is going to be an adjustment.”
Luckily, Perilli does not have to say goodbye to Roma Bank just yet. He now holds the title of director emeritus, a position that will allow him to act as a consultant without a regular board vote.
As an official retiree, Perilli will be busy at home taking care of his wife and finally sorting through the useless things he’s acquired over the years— what he refers to as his “junk” collection.
Otherwise, he plans on spending as much time as possible at his second home, the Roma Bank headquarters on Route 33 in Robbinsville.