Friends and colleagues of Bob Nace are remembering the former Morris Township mayor as a warm, wry man who remained upbeat to the end.
Nace died on Wednesday after a series of health issues. He was 72.
Rick Watson, who successfully ran with Nace for Township Committee three times between 1999 and 2005, visited Nace in a New York hospital about a month ago.
“He was very cheery, even though he was in great pain and difficulty,” said Watson. “He was a positive, very upbeat person, even when he was ill.”
Nace served as Morris Township mayor for three years before stepping down from the Township Committee in 2008, Watson said. He split his later years between the Township and Florida’s Marco Island with his wife, Judy.
Long active in the Republican party, Nace was appointed to fill an unexpired term on the Township Committee in the late 1990s, Watson said. His friend was not afraid to think outside the box.
“He concocted a plan to buy land across the border in Harding Township, to put up a couple of soccer fields,” Watson recounted. Although opponents killed the plan, “it was an example of the imaginative things he attempted to do.”
Former Mayor Kathleen Hyland said she would remember Nace’s devotion to the Township, and his sense of humor. “It was kind of dry,” she said.
Township Recreation Director Bill Foelsch called Nace “a tremendous advocate for open space preservation and improving our system of parks and recreation in Morris Township.
“His advocacy for the Township establishing a synthetic turf field for local youth sports programs was recently culminated in the opening of our new Cornine Field facility.
“His legacy includes the protection of some of our park preserve and sports field gems such as the Jockey Hollow Top Preserve, the Spence-Doremus Preserve and the Jean Street Soccer Field,” Foelsch said.
Mayor Jeff Grayzel was a committeeman when Nace became mayor. “He worked hard as mayor and I learned a lot from him,” including experience on the planning board thanks to his appointment by Nace, Grayzel said.
LOVED HIS IRISH HERITAGE
A past president of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, Nace loved his Irish heritage and was Grand Marshal of the 2007 Morris County St. Patrick’s Parade.
“Bob was a true leader,” said Jeff Rawding of the Friendly Sons.
“He set the bar with his dedication to improve and give these organizations recognition. I looked forward to Bob holding court in Dunkin Donuts, solving the world’s problems each morning when he was not in Florida. My heartfelt condolences go out to Judy and their family; Bob will be missed,” Rawding said.
Township Committeeman and Mayor Emeritus Peter Mancuso echoed that sentiment.
“He was a really good guy, who really cared about the town,” said Mancuso.
Nace retired as a computer specialist from the Morris County Park Commission, Watson said. He enjoyed door-to-door campaigning and, for fun, dressing the part for murder mystery parties.
Watson’s only major difference with Nace concerned baseball. Watson bleeds Mets Orange. Nace favored the Yankee pinstripes.
“Some things you just don’t talk about,” Watson said.