BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater Township Council voted unanimously to “forevermore” rename the John Wemple property as the “Vaucher Revolutionary Preserve at Steele Gap,” in honor of township resident Bob Vaucher.
The vote came after long tributes by Councilman Tim Ring and Council Vice President Filipe Pedroso honoring Vaucher’s long history of service to this country, but also his more than seven decades of civic engagement and principled advocacy to the town he loves, Bridgewater.
Ring said it was his honor to introduce the resolution recognizing “the significant and enduring contributions of Lt. Col (ret.) Thomas ”Bob” Vaucher to the defense of the U.S. and the preservation of our way of life through his honorable and courageous service in the United States Army Air Corps in WWII and his immense contributions to Bridgewater Township.”
“For anyone who hasn’t met Lt. Col. Thomas Vaucher, he is quite an individual,” said Ring, “in four months, he will be 102 years old, and he still drives.”
Ring went on to detail just some of Vaucher’s many military accomplishments and his contributions to Bridgewater.
Vaucher was one of a select group to participate in a test piloting program for the B29 super fortress; he led a group of B29 bombers over Japan in1945; and he was responsible for returning his flight group to Iwo Jima hundreds of miles from its original base in what was called “a wing and a prayer” mission after counting more than 400 bullet holes in his plane.
In 1950, he moved to Bridgewater, where he was instrumental in creating the township’s police department; shaping the town’s form of government; securing the land for the high school; and, participating in the efforts to have Route 287 rerouted in order to save the Hobbstown community. He was also a founding member of the Foothills Civic Association.
The Vaucher resolution was seconded by Pedroso, who also offered his sincere praise of the man he met more than 18 years ago when the councilman joined the zoning board. Vaucher would come to many meetings and speak up as an advocate for Bridgewater, Pedroso said.
“His consistent love for the township and his drive to protect the quality of life in Bridgewater” were evident, he said.
“I have little doubt that but for his activism, Bridgewater would not look the same, would not feel the same or be the same type of town it is today,” he said.
Calling him a “guardian” Pedroso added, “what an asset this town has had in him.”
During the public comment portion of the online meeting, Vaucher said, “Mr. Mayor and council, I want to say how deeply honored I am to be recognized for my contributions to my beloved country as a member of the U.S. Army Air Corp during WWII, as well as my contributions to Bridgewater, which I've cherished as my home for 70 years. It is overwhelming to think that the Vaucher name will remain on Foothill Road long after ‘I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.’ My deepest thanks for your thoughtful consideration of me and the freedoms, democracy and quality of life that I've fought for my entire life. May God continue to bless our great country and extraordinary Bridgewater Township.”
Vaucher was born in 1918 on a citrus ranch in Mission, Texas. His interest in flying began at age 17 when he attended Citizens Military Training Camp (CMTC) at Camp Bullis, Texas.
He received his civilian pilot license four years later and, shortly thereafter, enlisted in the Army Air Corp. He was commissioned as an officer in April 1941, and, eight months later, Vaucher piloted his first combat patrol mission from Westover Field, MA, in a B-18 searching for German ships and submarines off the east coast, nine days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
During 46 months of active Army Air Corp service, Vaucher flew nearly 40 different aircraft types for a total of 117 combat patrol, bombing, mining and photography missions in Panama, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, Galapagos, India, China and Tinian. His military awards include two Distinguished Flying Crosses, five Air Medals, eight Battle Stars and 13 War Time Commendations and Citations.
He was an innovative leader for 42 years in the metal working industry and has continuously served as a civic leader for 70 years in state, county and municipal affairs.
Vaucher was married for 53 years to Eleanor Hooey, and raised three children in Bridgewater, where he continues to be an active leader in his community, dynamic speaker on WWII aviation and a true inspiration to his family and friends.
According to Mayor Matthew Moench, an August ceremony to honor Vaucher for “protecting Bridgewater from overdevelopment” is planned.
In addition to recognizing Vaucher, the council also approved the formation and appointment of members to the Veterans Advisory Committee that same evening.
Moench said it was fitting to move forward with this new committee along with the Vaucher resolution.
“Bridgewater is a large town with a lot of veterans, and, unlike some other towns, we up until this year did not have a veterans committee,” the mayor said. “It’s important to our entire community to not just honor our veterans, but also to engage our veterans.”
“It’s important to me and I think everybody, the council and administration, that this is not just honoring accolades for the past actions of these veterans, but also to engage them in the community, get them involved and use their wisdom, leadership and their energy to benefit the community,” he added. “We’re really hoping this committee will take that mission and that direction, and really enhance our community for everybody with their participation.”