There is probably no Newark husband and
wife couple who loved Newark more, or left a greater mark on the
City, than Judges William M. and Esther K. Untermann.
Their combined years of service to and within the City of Newark
spanned more than six decades from their marriage on April 1, 1920
through the 1980s. This despite the fact that Judge William Untermann's
life ended early in 1944.
At the time of his death at the age of 54, William Untermann was
Judge of the Newark Second and Third Criminal Courts, a position
he held from his appointment in 1941 until his death on February
When he died suddenly , Judge Untermann's wife, Esther, was named
to take over for her husband and she held the post until her retirement
from the bench four years later.
At the time, she was the first woman police judge in the City
of Newark and one of the few sitting female judges in the entire
Judge Untermann's Newark Roots
William Untermann was born in Newark on November 26, 1880. He
devoted his entire life to Newark causes such as underprivileged
boys and girls, and the aid or betterment of needy charity, civic,
or communal activity.
He attended Robert Treat School, Barringer High School, and New
Jersey Law School. In his youth, he was an organizer of the Newark
Boys Club, and at the age of 16 as its president, he led a committee
of boys who petitioned the City for the establishment of a playground
system in Newark.
As a result of his petition, the City's first playground was opened
at Canal and Commerce Streets, the precise site where he was born.
His Adult City Appointments
In 1907 "Bill" Untermann was appointed director of the
Prince Street Playground, where he served for four years. From 1915
to 1926, he was associated with the Children's Aid Society. In 1925,
while employed with the Society, he became a member of the law profession.
In 1937, he joined the Newark Board of Assessment and Revision
of Taxes. In 1939, he was elected President of the Newark Tax Board,
a position, he held for two years until his appointment in 1941
as Judge of the Newark Second and Third Criminal Courts.
At the time of his death in 1944, an editorial in the Newark Evening
News, devoted to the deceased judge, said in part:
"With the sudden and untimely passing of Judge William M.
Untermann, the City of Newark has lost one of its outstanding citizens.
In truth has it been said:
'He loved Newark, its people, and served them well.'."
A Fiftieth Birthday Recognition
So great was the esteem in which Judge Untermann was held, that
on Tuesday, November 26, 1940, a Fiftieth Birthday Celebration Dinner-Dance
was held in his honor at the Essex House on 1048 Broad Street.2
It was attended by nearly 600 persons and included leaders from
the judiciary, education, and Newark's political and social life.
It was one of if not the biggest Newark social event in that year.
The William Untermann Legacy
As a testimonial to his life, the playfield and sports stadium
on Chancellor Avenue and Summit Avenue was dedicated on Sunday,
June 4, 1950 as the William M. Untermann Playfield. A boulder and
plaque was emplaced to commemorate the event.3
The library in the Weequahic High School on Chancellor Avenue
was named the William M. Unterman Library, and the William M. Untermann
Library was dedicated at Rutgers Hillel on the Rutgers University
campus in New Brunswick.
It is perhaps a coincidence that the first two Untermann memorial
namings were both on Chancellor Avenue, and that, up until his death,
the Untermann's had their home in Newark on 25 Chancellor Avenue.
B'nai B'rith Untermann Lodge Founded
In the year of Judge Bill Untermann's death, Newark's Essex B'nai
B'rith Lodge No. 1285, of which he had been a member, was rechartered
as the William M. Untermann No. 1285. It held its meetings at Abe
Ellis's Essex House on Broad Street until the Lodge bought its own
home at 18 Green Street in downtown Newark near City Hall. At its
peak in 1951, the Untermann Lodge had 1,350 Members.
Today, the Untermann lodge exists as a 'paper' Lodge with only
a few of its members still living, and with Ben Unterman as its
Ben Unterman (one 'n" in his name), a cousin of Bill Untermann,
currently an Elizabeth resident, and nearing the age of 89, told
me for this entry that he had promised Esther Untermann, before
her death, that he would keep the name of Untermann alive and, he
said, "I am keeping that promise."
About Judge Esther Untermann
Mrs. William M. Untermann became Judge Esther K. Untermann in
1944 when she was appointed to the bench to fill her husband's unexpired
term and continued to serve for four years until her retirement
from the bench to pursue her varied other activities.
Of her appointment to the bench, Judge Esther Untermann recalled
in a Newark Star-Ledger interview on March 18, 1971: she said "I
am not a lawyer, so I was sort of an exception to the rule, but
I did a darn good job.
"Do you think it was because I am a woman? It seems to me
women go into more details, have more feeling possibly than men."
Education and Early Work
Mrs. Untermann was graduated from Panzer College in East Orange,
now part of Montclair State University, and moved to Newark in 1920
with her marriage to William M. Untermann.
From 1920 to 1944, she taught physical education and recreation
in Newark schools, especially to "Special Education" children,
work that ended with her appointment as Judge at age 48, following
her husband's unexpected death in 1944.
Newark's Original Organization Woman
A newspaper article about Judge Esther Untermann stated that she
deserved the title of "Newark's original organization woman."
By the 1970s, she had already belonged to 51 different service
groups, and was still active in nearly a score of them. She had
founded and presided over many of them.4
She was the first woman to serve as secretary of the Newark Civil
Defense Council, and she was the first and only three-term president
of the Newark Business and Professional Women's Club.
She was also the first woman president of the Newark Physical
Education Association, and the first president and organizer of
the Cerebral Palsy League of New Jersey.
Also, she was chairwoman of the Weequahic Adult School.
Recognition As Writer
In conjunction with her work for the Newark civil Defense Council,
Mrs. Untermann won international recognition for her writings, and
her works were produced and broadcast on both radio and television.
Feted on Her 75th Birthday Twice
On January 14, 1971, when she celebrated her 75th birthday, she
was honored with a Diamond-Golden Jubilee Testimonial Dinner at
the Short Hills Caterers.5
It was attended by 325 guests. The event was a joint one commemorating
both her 75th birthday and her 50th year of service to B'nai B'rith.
In Mrs. Untermann's remarks at the testimonial, she said: "Doing
worthwhile things for others is a tonic. Then you don't have time
to sit around and feel sorry for yourself and grow old, lonely and
The month following the Diamond-Golden Jubilee Testimonial, in
February 1971, at a tribute paid to Esther Untermann at a meeting
of the William M. Untermann Lodge of B'nai B'rith, commemorating
the 80th anniversary of her husband's birth, as well as her recent
birthday, lodge president Ben Unterman said of William M. and Esther
K. Untermann in his remarks: " As his life was dedicated to
the service of his fellow man, his aims and goals were shared by
Esther K. Untermann.
Passing of Esther Untermann
Esther Untermann, widowed at age 58, lived to 93, dying on February
12, 1989, at the Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.
The Star-Ledger obituary6
headlined her as "First Lady of Essex."
She had lived in the Robert Treat and other Newark hotels during
her post-judicial years, after selling the family residence at 25
Chancellor Avenue after the death of her husband.
Her last five years had been spent as a resident in the Daughters
of Israel Geriatric Center in West Orange.
She is buried alongside her husband at the King Solomon Memorial
Park in Clifton.
Having absorbed myself in the lives and works of the Untermanns
for this contribution to the Old Newark web site, I want to say
in conclusion that William M. and Esther K. Untermann were a truly
unique couple who through their life and their deeds reflected their
love of the City, and their shared conviction that Newark had much
to offer as one of America's great cities.