Ocean County Political Icon Joseph Buckelew Honored

Joseph Buckelew was honored at the Ocean County Freeholders meeting. From right, Assemblyman Brian Rumpf, Congressman Robert Singer, Buckelew, and Assemblyman David Wolfe. (Photo by Jennifer Peacock)

OCEAN COUNTY – Thomas Edison. Bruce Springsteen. Walt Whitman. Joseph Buckelew.

He’s not an inventor, singer/songwriter or poet, but Joseph Buckelew is the first (former) Ocean County freeholder to join the ranks of those named to the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

The hall was created in 2005 and its first inductees were named by then-governor Jon Corzine in 2008.

“Joe has played an important role in the lives and careers of all of us involved in the democratic process here in Ocean County,” Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little said. “He has advised us both in our careers and in our personal lives. More importantly, Joe has always been there for all of us and we appreciate his friendship above all else.”

Buckelew was inducted May 6 at Convention Hall in Asbury Park with 14 other inductees this year. He was honored in the “Enterprise” category along with real estate executive Jon Hanson, publishing executive Steve Forbes and celebrity chef, Cake Boss Buddy Valastro. Other 2018 inductees included Harlan Coben; Anna Quindlen; Steven Van Zandt; The Four Seasons members Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito, Nick Massi and Joe Long; Gloria Gaynor; Debbie Harry; Mark and Scott Kelly; Clara Maass; Millicent Fenwick; Al Leiter; Carli Lloyd; and Kevin Hoagland.

Buckelew drew a crowd of Ocean County dignitaries at the Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting June 6, where local, county, state and federal officials recognized the former freeholder’s contributions to the state, nation and beyond.

Joseph Buckelew listens to praise at the Ocean County Freeholders meeting. (Photo by Jennifer Peacock)

For more than an hour, the freeholder and other officials spoke of how Buckelew, the face of Ocean County politics for decades, shaped and influenced their political paths, and how he would help and guide others regardless of their political affiliation.

Buckelew grew up in Lakewood. He played football in high school and semi-pros around the county. He worked as a police officer in Lakewood and worked as an MP during the Korean War. He served as a committeeman and mayor in his hometown as well. He served as a freeholder in the 1970s and was chairman of the Ocean County Republican Organization, a position held now by George Gilmore.

He helped launch WOBM FM and AM, bought and sold (with others) the Philadelphia Inquirer, and has worked in insurance for decades. He is currently chairman with Conner Strong & Buckelew.

Current Ocean County Republican chairman George Gilmore hugs Joseph Buckelew. (Photo by Jennifer Peacock)

“So many memories have come back to me over the years what you’re talking about,” Buckelew told the packed house. He was sitting with his sons, daughters-in-law and grandson. “My time in being involved as a freeholder was a great time of my life. I enjoyed every minute of it. I think we did a lot of good things.”

The proclamation honoring Buckelew, signed by all five freeholders and three county constitutional officers, will hang in the freeholder meeting room in perpetuity.