MILLBURN, NJ - I had Navy duty yesterday afternoon and when it was over I decided to swing by the American Legion on Main St. to hoist a few drinks with my fellow vets. The first person I saw as I was bellying up to the bar was Jake Dalton, a WWII vet and long time Millburn resident. I've seen him around town at events like the Memorial Day parade last year and Veterans Day this year at Taylor Park but didn't really know him. So we chatted over a few drinks, got to know one another and swapped sea stories. He did most of the talking, I did most of the drinking.
He joined the Navy when he was 17 years old after graduating from Millburn High School. When he finished basic training, he serve in various assignments in the South Pacific as an Aviation Ordinanceman. The young petty officer served for four years before coming home.
He's been volunteering at New Eyes for the Needy in Short Hills for more than 23 years. I recalled a press release about New Eyes from months back and asked him how they were able to get such a well known actor like Jake Gyllenhaal as their spokesman. He told me that Gyllenhaal has bad eyesight, always have, an one day when he was a young boy he saw his father was putting a box together to donate his old eyeglasses. The Short Hills location is the only one in the U.S. and not sure how his father knew about New Eyes from California where the Gyllenhaal's were residing.
As Gyllenhaal got older and relocated to Manhattan, he remembered New Eyes and the great work they do supplying eyeglasses to over 600,000 needy folks in the U.S. and worldwide. each year. One day Gyllenhaal came for a visit to Short Hills to check it out. Jake Dalton happened to be there that day and was introduced to the celebrity actor. Dalton recalls he had long hair, a beard and a long coat. He had never heard of him.
That evening at home, he told his his granddaughter that "some famous, young guy from New York City came to visit". She asked who it was. Jake couldn't remember his full name. "It was Jake something. Don't remember his last name, he's one of those Hollywood actors."
After several guesses by his granddaughter she finally guessed Gyllenhaal, pursued by a lot of teen aged screams of, " OMG" and "I can't believe it."
Dalton replied, "Yep, that's that fella."