Locals remember Bill Trask as ‘Icon of the community’

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Bill Trask’s granddaughter Diane Kalin at the 92-year-old man’s burial Saturday, Sept. 29.

GALLOWAY – Bill Trask died of a broken heart Friday, Sept. 26.

Really.

For more than a year he mourned for his wife of 67 years, former Atlantic County nurse Vera Trask

“The doctor says there’s really nothing wrong with him,” Trask’s granddaughter Diane Kalin shortly before his passing. “He’s just not eating. He keeps saying how much he misses her.”

After Vera died June 19, 2011, Trask lost all reason to live, according to longtime friend and former Galloway Township Republican League President Lenny Gray. It was just a matter of time.

“He designed a beautiful headstone for their grave that had a picture of the two of them with the usual dates but there was something else: he put their wedding date on the headstone and memorialized the number of years that they were married upon her death,” Gray said. “He made sure that they would be together in the way that Bill wanted.”

Trask was known as a community activist.

He was remembered by another Galloway activist, Anna Jezycki, Mrs. J.

Bill Trask, in the day.

"He was an icon in this community,” Jezycki said. “He was rough and gruff at times, spoke his mind, ruffled a lot of feathers at times, but he loved this community.”

She said he always stood up for what he thought was right.

“He loved his Vera, and I think he is now very happy to be reunited with her,” Jezycki said. “That was all he wanted. I was one of the very lucky people to really know Bill. I considered him my friend. He will be greatly missed.”

Trask was lifetime member of the Oceanville Fire Company, a veteran of the United States Coast Guard, a member of the local 623 Carpenters Union and – to the end - an involved citizen of Galloway.

Members of the fire company and Coast Guard attended his services and burial Saturday, Sept. 29.

“Many people, who did not really know him, remember Bill Trask as a community activist, political activist, town hall gadfly, outspoken citizen at municipal council meetings or a stereotypically chronic, malcontented critic,” Gray said. “It was easier than to try to understand the man. The label also made it easier to marginalize a very bright individual.”

He said the public Bill Trask was very different from the private man.

Trask was born in Iowa and he was delivered by a midwife in the summer of 1920. According to Gray, he was the seventh of 10 children. Now there is only one, Jerry, 85, living in California. Trask’s mother, Pearl Mabel Jones Trask, died at 39 while giving birth to her 10th child in 1925, leaving all of the responsibility for the care of the children to her ill husband, Charles Walter Trask who was forced to give up the children to the local orphanage and died just four years after his wife.

“When Bill joined the service, he had to give a date of birth,” Gray said. “Since he knew from his older siblings that he was born in the summer of 1920, he picked July 31 because, in those days, midwives did not keep any records.”

That was the date that the State of Iowa approved on Jan. 24, 2007 when they issued Trask his first birth certificate based upon supporting evidence that approximated his birth date.

“He needed the birth certificate for the first time in his life because of the new NJMVS rules for identification to get a driver’s license renewal,” Gray said. “Even Social Security took his word for his age when he retired in 1985 and he received benefits based upon his military record and his marriage certificate. He was as proud of that birth certificate document as the Tin Woodman who received his heart from the Wizard of Oz.”

While stationed in Atlantic City, Trask met Vera Somers, who was a nurse at the time, tending to the war wounded.

Vera’s family - Somers and Conovers - lived in this area for a very long time and Trask finally found roots and a sense of a stable family.

Trask worked various jobs and owned and operated a local candy store down the street from his home while his wife worked as the township Nurse. Ultimately, he started working for the local Carpenter’s Union. The union had a lot of steady work, sending him into Pennsylvania, northern Jersey and sometimes he even worked locally.

Bill and Vera Trask saved their money and purchased the property that he lived in at his death.

“The home that he lived in was built by him whenever he was off from work and 60-plus years later, the house is still sturdy and sound,” Gray said.

“Bill was a private person who lived for his family,” Gray said. “All of the public activities of running for office (an unsuccessful council bid), serving on the Zoning Board, serving as a part-time code enforcement officer, participating on the 1974 Galloway Charter Study Committee, working on the 1968 Smithville Music Fair and other community-oriented activities were kept separate from his family and the community activities always held second place in his life.”

He is survived by their son William Jr.; their grandchildren, Diane, William, Jennifer and Sarah; their seven great-grandchildren; and one great-great-granddaughter.

Not that he didn’t love the community. He was among those who helped construct the Galloway Township Athletic Association’s first baseball fields and he was a Cub Scout leader.

Trask often attended Township Council meetings and pressed leaders on a variety of issues.

“He had the guts to stand in front of the leaders of Galloway even when he was being told to stop talking or when he would be laughed at or simply ignored,” Gray said. “They may have thought they were defeating him. But he didn’t care. In all cases, Bill did what he set out to do – to simply be heard.”


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