LACEY – March 23rd was the official birthday of Lacey Township which this year marks its 150th year as a municipality.
That special milestone was not ignored by township officials who observed it with a special honor to one of its town fathers whom many consider to be the patriarch of Lacey, that being John C. Parker.
While he has not served on the Township Committee in a decade, he was made honorary mayor for 2021 to commemorate the past milestone years he presided as Lacey mayor.
Mayor Peter Curatolo called the 150th Anniversary remarkable effort, thanking the anniversary committee, Department of Public Works (DPW), and more. “It has definitely been a team effort to make something extra special.”
The mayor read a proclamation noting Parker’s long history and accomplishments in Lacey and in Ocean County. Parker was born in the Forked River section of the township on 1936 to one of the oldest families in Ocean County. He attended the old school house which is currently known as the schoolhouse museum on Lacey Road. He was the captain of the football team, president of the senior class and graduated from the University of Maryland in 1958.
He married his high school sweet heart Louise Scully on June 2, 1958 and built their first home in Forked River that same year where they raised three children, Cindy, Tammy and Casey. They were blessed with seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
His public service included helping to establish the Lacey Township Police Department, becoming a police officer and rising to the rank of sergeant. Parker continued the family business as president of Parker Associates and served as president of South Jersey Oil Company.
The proclamation noted Parker had been instrumental in the economic growth of the township as a committeeman. He had served as mayor six times and chairman of the Lacey Township Planning Board and Zoning Board, a member of the Ocean County Historic Society as well as the Lacey Township Historical Society and was named as Lacey Township historian.
Parker was also listed as a member and/or leader of a number of other civic organizations in the township and currently serves as chairman of the Ocean County Municipal Utilities Authority.
Mayor Curatolo noted Parker is well known for being seen driving around in his red truck with his dog Cody and visiting his friends at local township diners. He served as mayor for the township’s 100th anniversary in 1971 and was mayor in 1986 during Lacey’s 125th anniversary. So it was only fitting that he be honored by being installed as honorary mayor for the year.
Parker responded smiling saying “I thank you for this honor. This was a surprise. I didn’t know about this until 24 hours ago. This is a hell of an honor for me but it wouldn’t amount to anything if it wasn’t for my family and my friends being here because that is what it is all about.”
He joked “if I did everything you people said I did (within the proclamation summary) I’d be dead.”
A presentation by Lacey 150th Anniversary Committee member Laura McDonald outlined a number of upcoming activities that will take place in the weeks and months to come.
“We do have a lot of activities planned. Most of them are free. Some there will be a slight charge for. I want to invite everyone who is interested to go to our website or our Facebook page to be updated on the events that are going on. Every month there will be a new event and some will be continuing throughout the next couple of months,” she added.
McDonald said the current project is a township cookbook. All entries were collected at the end of the March online. The anniversary committee challenged all the restaurants in town to put in a recipe of their own. The cookbook will be available for purchase later in the year.
She added that submissions were collected “for our time capsule built by our DPW.” On March 23, a small party was held in the back of the Township Recreation Building. Submissions by the public – placed inside a standard size envelope – were dropped into the time capsule and “will be opened again in 25 years.
“The time capsule will be on display in the town for those 25 years and hopefully we’ll all still be here to open it. We will also be having geocaching sites throughout the town. We have a QR code and they are historical sites throughout the town. There will be at least 40. There will be a list of more historical sites with information available for you,” she said.
She also mentioned a planned garden walk in the late spring or early summer. “They’ll be a photo contest of digital downloaded pictures of sites within or items within our township. We’ll also be having bingo on the beaches this summer and a Jeopardy game.”
McDonald also mentioned plans of a variety show to be held in the fall. “We’re hoping that with all the restrictions (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) lifted will be having a parade in the fall. We are welcoming as many volunteers as we can get. We have a lot of work to do and we need people to help.”
She also noted a Lacey themed documentary movie being produced by the local Girl Scout Troop in the township. “They are directing and editing for their Bronze Award. We’d also like to have the schools involved and all the businesses involved.
“Through the website there is a merchandise page that you can go and order from. We will have blankets, beach towels, apparel, tote bags, flags will be coming out soon and we will also have a township challenge coin for sale. I want to encourage everybody to come out and be a part of our 150th celebration and have a good time,” McDonald added.
Committeeman Timothy McDonald said planning began two years for the anniversary while he was mayor. “A lot of this is two years in the making and it accelerated last year but as we know COVID hit and there has been a lot of changes. I want to congratulate all the people that worked on this to get it where it is now.
“They have done an outstanding job under difficult conditions. To plan this for 30,000 people and then be told you have restrictions. You change everything on a dime and they keep lifting restrictions. It is almost an impossible task,” Committeeman McDonald added.
The township’s website is laceytownship.org where anniversary event information can be found. Information can also be found on the Lacey Township’s 150th Anniversary Facebook page. The motto for the celebration is “Live It-Love It-Be Part of It!”