In the wake of a Fair Haven Fire Department award and reflection on the bond among its members through generations, thoughts turn to times when the bonds were forged.Continue reading Retro FH Fire Company Family Time
Well, the Fair Haven Fire Department grounds were flush with oldies on Sunday — cars, trucks and some old-timers themselves.
The marquee on the Fair Haven Firehouse is once again blanketed in memorial buntings. Borough firemen and longtime residents are in mourning.
Sixty-year fire company member and deep-rooted resident Thomas Vetterl “passed away peacefully” on Oct. 19 in Florida where he had relocated in his retirement years, according to his obituary in the Palm Beach Post. He was 93.
Born in Paterson, he spent most of his life in Red Bank and Fair Haven, where he was a member of the Church of the Nativity.
A graduate of Red Bank High School in 1941, Thomas was a star athlete, playing football, basketball and baseball.
A U.S. Army World War II veteran, Thomas Vetterl served as a staff sergeant in the 112th Field Artillery Division of the New Jersey National Guard, according to his obituary.
After being honorably discharged, he became a civil service employee — a motor vehicle foreman in the HISA, CECOM section of Fort Monmouth, retiring in 1985 after a 35-year career.
He was an exempt member of the Fair Haven Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 until his death.
Formerly, he was an active member of B.P.O.E. Lodge #233 in Red Bank, and the American Legion in Tequesta, FL.
He was known to love softball and was a member of Val’s Pal Softball Club in Rumson, and in Florida was a member of Jupiter Men’s Softball Association and Staying Alive Fitness Club, Palm Beach Gardens, FL.
He was predeceased by his wife, the late Doris G. Vetterl, in 1987.
He is survived by: two sons, Thomas J., of Gilbert, AZ, and Robert D., of Wakefield, RI; and six grandchildren, Alison, Thomas, Robert, Kristen, Victoria and Justin.
A memorial celebration will be held Nov. 7 at John E. Day Funeral Home, Red Bank. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Wounded Warriors Fund.
By Elaine Van Develde
As was true-to-form for Chum Chandler, people are scratching their heads … itching to know where time went and why it must inevitably take someone like him away.
Mourned in a celebration of his life on Saturday, Chum Chandler, an iconic, lifelong Fair Havenite and 64-year fireman, was remembered as tall order of head-scratching, suspender-donning, side-splitting tough wrapped in a tender life embrace.
He called people by the wrong names just to mess with them. He loved to sneak in some sweets. His tell-it-like-it-is sayings spared no one. He was lovingly stingy with his show of emotion. He adorned his family and friends with a lot of anecdotal stories and strength. His eyes twinkled with mischief. He had no pretense.
He was, yes, a Fair Haven character — a big chunk of community foundation.
His family and friends told his story on Saturday at the Fair Haven firehouse — a place where Chum spent many years. But everyone knew him already.
They knew that guy. They knew his story. That’s because he was the kind of stuff Fair Haven is made of — a World War II U.S. Navy veteran, husband, father, brother, friend, neighbor, volunteer and just an unassuming, hard-working man trying to do the right thing, enjoy life to the fullest and pay it forward.
And, by all accounts, he did just that.
“It’s not what you take with you when you leave this world, it’s what you leave behind when you go,” his memorial card read. “You left behind more than you could ever imagine …”
The family and friends of Chum still tried to account for it all, but what he left behind was more than they could possibly summon in a day’s worth of remembrance. Still, they made it through with enough Chum snippets and sound bites to celebrate him.
They talked about his ornery humor. It made them laugh between the tears. There was nothing blurred about their vision of Chum, though.
Daughter Lizzie scratched her head in imitation of her dad and his infernal noggin itch as, inevitably, some nugget of humor, wisdom or “one-of-a-kind” advice would drop out of his mouth like a candy in a Pez dispenser.
Carol, forever teased for talking too much, grappled to find the right words — words that she wished would prompt a familiar “Go pound salt!” from dad above.
He had lived with her for the past four years, she said. Fetching him some tea, feeding him something that his stomach wanted and just looking in on him to see if he was comfortably resting at bedtime was what she had grown accustomed to doing — “caring and worrying about you every day, even though you were independent,” like a parent.
The roles had reversed. And, she said, the nurturing became treasured time.
Grandson Michael (Chandler) West was grateful for having had a grandfather like Chum, with a special brand of gusto that caused him to insist that his girlfriend Dana’s name was Donna, because, when corrected, “Dana, Donna … same thing,” was the only answer he got. Until Dana turned the tables on him.
And, Michael said, Pop-Pop turned out to be one of the funniest people Dana ever met.
“Turn that s**t down!” he imitated, remembering Pop-Pop knocking on his brother Chandler’s wall when the video games started to sound like bad, newfangled rock music to him.
Ever so lively, Michael said he wasn’t used to seeing his grandfather so calm.
Before he died, he was sleeping. It was quiet and dark. Michael just wanted to spend some time with his grandfather, “even if you weren’t awake.
“But what did I see? As I turned around the corner and entered the dark room with the lights turned off, I see something I haven’t seen for a few weeks now. I see this white flash moving back and forth. It’s none other than you scratching that ‘damn itch’ on your damn head that you ‘almost damn near got’ for the past five or six years!”
He got it. His family got it. His friends got it. The community got it. There’s no more head-scratching for Warren “Chum” Chandler.
The 89-year-old father to seven, grandfather to 15 and great-grandpa to three, with one one the way, was laid to rest on Monday at B.G. William Doyle Veterans Cemetery, Arneytown, N.J.
But those he left behind will keep itching to fulfill a legacy like his.
RIP, Warren “Chum” Chandler. We’re scratching.