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Born and raised in New Jersey — Now get me out of here

Camilla, George, Patricia and Chris Pankewitch, of Howell
Camilla, George, Patricia and Chris Pankewytch, of Howell (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)

On day two of our three-part series about different generations’ views about the state in which they live, we hear from a couple of families who still have more than two generations living in New Jersey.

While the oldest members stuck it out in New Jersey for most or all of their lives, there’s no shortage of folks heading toward retirement who say they want out.

Part 1: What senior citizens think about living in New Jersey

In the aftermath of World War II, Camilla Pankewytch (Moog before marriage) came to New Jersey from Germany at age 20. She had been “hungry for six years” overseas and was immediately fascinated by New Jersey and the new life it would offer.

“You could get everything here. It was a relief,” she said.

That new life included a marriage, a child and two stepchildren.

The 88-year-old has been here ever since. She bounced around between Newark and Irvington, then lived in Lakewood for 27 years, and most recently moved in with her son, daughter-in-law and grandson in the Ramtown section of Howell.

Both George, 60, and Patricia, 58, were born and raised in Newark — a very different Newark than what exists today, they noted.

After getting married, they spent about a year in Rochester, New York, and eventually came back to their home state, setting up shop in Irvington, followed by Newark and eventually Howell.

“It was a lot easier having kids at the time and sending them to school,” the father of two said.

But now their youngest is headed into his sophomore year of college. And the clock is ticking on how long the couple is willing to call New Jersey home.

“I think pretty soon when retirement hits, we’re going to be moving out of state,” he said.

His wife is easily on board with the anticipated change, despite spending almost the entirety of the past six decades within New Jersey’s borders.

“It’s just so expensive to live in New Jersey,” she said. “There’s a lot of people living in these 50-and-older groups, and they struggle.”

The couple is looking in the northeastern corner of Pennsylvania where they like to vacation in the summer.

Their eldest son, meanwhile, is ahead of the leave-NJ game. Upon graduating college a few years ago, George Pankewytch convinced his son to avoid returning to New Jersey because of the financial and logistical issues it would present. His son now lives in Boston.

“I told him if you move down here, the price of the apartments are going to be a lot higher … You’re going to need a car because there’s not a lot of public transportation available, depending on where you live,” he said.

Their youngest son Chris is fine with his parents’ likely exit from the Garden State. Nothing is tying him to New Jersey, and “anywhere is fine” when he’s out of school.

“I would probably get out of college and then just go wherever work would take me,” he said. “I know there are a lot of jobs elsewhere.”

According to the National Movers’ Study from United Van Lines, 63 percent of moves that took place in New Jersey in 2016 were outbound. That tops any other state’s percentage. The most popular reasons for outmigration were jobs and retirement, the study shows.

Edison resident Claire Chirico has been a New Jerseyan for 84 of the 86 years she’s been alive, and while the state “aggravates” her, she’s staying put.

Claire Chirico, of Edison, and Carolyn and Lauren Wilson, of North Brunswick
(From left to right) Claire Chirico, of Edison, and Carolyn and Lauren Wilson, of North Brunswick (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)

But she has a son who’s out of state because he couldn’t afford New Jersey’s high costs. And her daughter, Carolyn Wilson, will one day head in the same direction.

Wilson, 56, of North Brunswick, said the negatives of New Jersey (high taxes and corruption) outweigh the positives (the beach and school systems), so when her 15-year-old daughter is through with school, she’s likely through with New Jersey.

“I’m probably going to stay on the East Coast, but south — within the next 10 years or so.” she said.

Her daughter, Lauren, says she’s aware of her mother’s plans. She doesn’t seem bothered or too attached to New Jersey.

“I don’t really know much else,” she said.

She’ll be looking at colleges in the next year or two. She wants to be “far enough away” from home, but she’s unsure if that means in or out of New Jersey.

Tomorrow, in the third and final segment of the series, residents from Gen X to the Silent Generation share what they actually enjoy about the Garden State.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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