RANDOLPH, NJ- In an unexpected turn of events - the Bugler played “Taps” in honor of him this Memorial Day Weekend.
Randolph lost one of its finest this past Wednesday, May 20, when the face of the Township’s VFW Post 7333, Jack Sassaman, passed away unexpectedly at his home.
At all the Randolph VFW ceremonies for our nations patriotic holidays, Sassaman was always the man behind the horn, playing the symbolic Military song “Taps” to honor those who were lost. But on Saturday, May 23, 2020, the song echoed through the tree tops of a rain soaked Pleasant Hill Cemetery on Quaker Church Road, as his American Flag draped casket sat beneath a beautiful old Oak tree. This time, the song was honoring him.
“Jack was a patriot, Red, White and Blue ran through his veins,” said NJ Senator Anthony Bucco Jr. “I always admired his love of country. He was a proud veteran and you felt that when you were around him.”
Growing up in Phillipsburg, NJ, Sassaman had just started college when he was drafted into the army at the tender age of 19, and subsequently sent overseas to serve his country in the Vietnam War. After being drafted as a Private, he quickly rose to the rank of Sgt. in the Third US Army, 6th Bn, 1st Infantry, Signal Corp. Because of his leadership skills and ability to see solutions to problems that others may not, he naturally assumed a leadership role
After two years of service during the war, Sassaman returned to civilian life where he met and married his wife of 48 years, Jane, in 1972. In 1977 the happy young couple moved to Randolph, where they raised three kids - Jennifer, Jack Jr. and Jeff, all three of whom graduated from RHS in the mid to late 90’s.
“The Randolph Dairy Queen was one of his favorite places to go when we were growing up,” said Jack Jr. “He would take us as kids and he always got the black and white milkshake. One of his favorite sayings was “Life is unpredictable; eat dessert first."
Sassaman joined the VFW in the late 1990's and began his mission to restore the post to its original glory by recruiting new members willing to participate in his vision of honoring veterans for their service and sacrifice. He served as Post Commander, District Commander, and State Adjudent over the years, and was currently filling the positions of Post Adjudent and Quartermaster.
“Jack was a prominent figure both in the district and state level, who was well known and often called upon for his knowledge of how the VFW organization runs,” said Current Post Commander Scott Montanio. “Jack was the backbone and heartbeat of the Randolph post who executed his precise plans with military precision. It was widely known that Jack did things his way because "it's just the right way" in his words.”
Anyone who knew Sassaman, knew that he loved his country, freedom, and patriotism. Honoring and recognizing the sacrifice of Veterans was often priority number one.
“Earlier last week, Jack emailed me to let me know that he was having the Memorial Day service no matter what, and I should let Trenton know,” said Bucco, referring to the COVID-19 statewide ban on gatherings of more than 10 people. “His leadership and service to the VFW members will definitely be missed.”
Sassaman has also been described as the guy everyone would call if they had a question that no one else could answer. If you wanted something done right, Jack was the guy you wanted around to get it done.
“He was dedicated to the veterans in a way that was contagious and made others want to be a part of what he was doing,” said Montanio. “Jack may be gone but I will strive to carry on his legacy by leading the Randolph Memorial Post 7333 as I know he would, with veteran's causes at the forefront.”
Sassaman was guided through life by his strong beliefs in family, religion, and friendship, dedicating his time to his wife, children and grandchildren.
Each of his six grandchildren adored him; his classic response every time one yelled out “Papa!” was "Yes, my honey?”
“He would do anything for them to make sure they were happy, having fun, and showered with both love and ice cream,” said Jack Jr. “Each grandkid had his or her own special activity with him, and he was always sure to treat each one equally yet individually.”
Within his inner circle, Sassaman was known as the “Master of Puns”, and a skilled veteran of “Dad jokes”. Some even teased him that he “Kept the flannel shirt companies in business” as he seemingly had a different one for every occasion. But he was the one who had the last laugh, because whenever a tired grandkid needed a soft place to rest their head, they looked for their Papa.
Sassaman shared a love of gardening with Jane, and also found strength in his church at Union Hill Presbyterian in Denville, where he served as an Elder and as the usher for over 25 years, making sure every member of the congregation knew where to sit.
At age 74, it is safe to say that Sassaman left this earth far too soon and far too sudden. However, in some ways, it seems only fit that his ascension into heaven would come on Memorial Day Weekend.
“I'll always remember him as being full of life, warm, and welcoming; always expressing an interest in hearing about your family's life - and wanting to share his with you,” said former Randolph Mayor and current Town Council member Jim Loveys. “He was straightforward, honest, sincere, and truly seemed to be at peace. In a nutshell, Jack was a good person who touched many people and will be dearly missed.” Loveys paused, and then added, “He certainly leaves a legacy in Randolph Township and I will forever miss him - and his playing of Taps.”
Sassaman is survived by his wife, Jane; his children, Jennifer, Jack Jr., and Jeffrey; his grandchildren (in birth order): Jack III, Piper, Walter V, Casey, Juliana, and Zoe. His memory will live on forever in our hearts and in all that he touched as he did God’s work here on Earth.