Former borough mayor dies at 83

Friends and family remember the life of former Hightstown mayor, Jerome "Red" Becker Jr.

By: Lauren Burgoon
   HIGHTSTOWN — A family man, a humble man and a man with a deep love for his community and country. These are only a few of the characteristics that family and friends say defined Jerome "Red" Becker Jr. The former Hightstown mayor died at age 83 on Dec. 25.
   "He had deep roots in the community," said his daughter Patricia Hullfish of Plainsboro. "I don’t think he ever thought of moving." Ms. Hullfish said her father, like his own parents, was a lifelong Hightstown resident who made a point to be very involved in the borough.
   Mr. Becker served as Hightstown’s mayor from 1965-1966 and also served as borough police commissioner and postmaster. Mr. Becker was involved with several organizations, including the VFW, American Legion, Lions Club and the East Windsor-Hightstown Board of Education.
   Hightstown Mayor Robert Patten said that Mr. Becker’s love for Hightstown was matched by his dedication to his family.
   "He was very dear to his family and he was a great grandfather and father," Mayor Patten said. Ms. Hullfish said her father was especially devoted to his 10 grandchildren.
   Mr. Becker also is survived by five daughters and one son. He was predeceased by another son. He also had a great-granddaughter and three sisters.
   "He was there to support them no matter what," she said. "He was proud of all of them." Ms. Hullfish said when her son returned from serving in Iraq last fall her father made it a point to attend his grandson’s homecoming even though he had recently been hospitalized.
   Mr. Becker, "an outstanding baseball player" by Ms. Hullfish’s account, met his wife under unusual circumstances. He was trying out for a Major League team — the Connie Mack-owned Philadelphia Athletics — when he broke his leg and was hospitalized, according to Ms. Hullfish. Mr. Becker ended up falling in love with his nurse, the late Rose O’Rourke Becker.
   But World War II delayed marriage plans. The future Mrs. Becker served as a nurse in the Pacific, while Mr. Becker, a retired major in the U.S. Army Reserve, served in Europe. He received the Bronze Star for rescuing a fellow soldier although he was wounded himself, and also was awarded the Purple Heart and the New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal, New Jersey’s highest military distinction.
   Mr. Becker’s priest, the Rev. Patrick McDonnell of St. Anthony of Padua in Hightstown, said "Red" Becker, so called because of his hair color, was a loving man and a great influence on the borough.
   "He was a gentle kind of guy and filled with love for his family and country," the Rev. McDonnell said. "He brought dignity and class to whatever he did."
   Ms. Hullfish said her father would be embarrassed by the many positive stories family and friends tell.
   "He would never tell you about all that he did," Ms. Hullfish said. "He was a very humble man."