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In Memoriam - Lee M. Hale

Lee M. Hale, of Westfield, NJ died Saturday, January 26, 2013 at Overlook Hospital.  Born in 1924 and raised in Shippensburg, PA he was the son of Lee and Blanche Hale.  Although his father died when Lee was only 8, his mother, a local music teacher and choir leader, raised him with a strong hand and a solid foundation in education.

After finishing his freshman year at Shippensburg State Teachers College, Lee was able to transfer to the University of Pennsylvania with the help of a Pennsylvania Senatorial Scholarship.  World War II interrupted his college career after two semesters at the Wharton School of Business and he was sent almost immediately to the front lines as a rifleman to the Ardennes Forest in Belgium and The Battle of the Bulge. He received The Purple Heart for injuries suffered there.

After the war, Mr. Hale completed his education at Wharton and graduated in 1947.  He faced a choice of two companies to work for after graduating:  the prodigious US Steel and, at the time, a little known pharmaceutical company called Merck.  He chose the latter and for the next 42 years played a part in taking Merck to the Fortune 500 status it would one day attain.  He started in accounting and retired in 1989 as the Assistant Treasurer.

It was at work that he met the woman who would become his wife, Anne Mason who was a native of Cranford, NJ.  They chose Westfield as the town to call home and raise a family of three.  Anne was a behind-the-scenes support of Lee in his community work; whether it was managing the household, typing manuscripts or together developing parking proposals for downtown Westfield.  They celebrated 56 years of marriage before her death in 2007.


Lee made community support a priority in his life early on taking on numerous roles in the many sports, civic and financial organizations in Westfield and beyond.   He served as a board member, officer, president, or director with many organizations including the Westfield Y, The Westfield Boosters, Children's Specialized Hospital, The Westfield Foundation, Elizabeth General Hospital, The Cancer Institute of New Jersey and The United Fund.  He served as a Town Councilman and was a strong supporter of the Westfield Republican Party.  Even up until his death he was active in the Overlook Foundation, Westfield Historical Society, the Presbyterian Church burial grounds committee, and Downtown Westfield Corporation (aka Main Street Westfield) to name a few.

Lee enjoyed playing basketball and being a sports writer in high school.  He attended many NY Giants and Westfield football games, never missing a Plainfield-Westfield Thanksgiving game.  His love of sports translated in numerous contributions in town including the founding of the Westfield Athletic Hall of Fame.  He co-authored The Coaching Edge: The Gary Kehler Story and was largely responsible for the naming of the Gary Kehler Stadium.


Mr. Hale was also a member of Echo Lake Country Club for over 50 years where he developed an ardent love for the game of golf and paddle tennis.  Lee served on the Board of Trustees and as President.  He authored two books on the history of the club to commemorate the 90 and then 100-year anniversaries.  Mr. Hale worked to bring both the Junior Boys and Junior Girls National Championships to Echo Lake.

Lee believed that keeping downtown Westfield vibrant was critical.  He served for many years with Downtown Westfield Corporation and brought Westfield to national attention when it received the Great American Main Street Award and the America in Bloom Awards.  His fundraising efforts enabled the Westfield Historical Society to restore the Reeve History and Cultural Resource Center and established the Hall of Fame to commemorate Westfield citizens who make significant contributions.


For the past five years Lee enjoyed a loving relationship with Nancy Trippe of Somers, NY, who previously lived in Westfield.  Her family became his extended family.  Lee and Nancy enjoyed traveling, sports, cultural arts and time with their friends and families.  


He is survived by Nancy Trippe of Somers, NY, his sister Jean Miller, daughter Catherine Hale and her husband Karlis Viceps of Taos, New Mexico, daughter Barbara Hale of Kinnelon, NJ, Thomas Hale of McLean, VA, his granddaughter Jessica Ricker and her partner Chris Pienta of Jamaica Plain, MA.


Mr. Hale established a lifelong legacy of commitment to the community, his friends and to his family who will all miss him dearly.


A memorial service will be held at 11:00 AM on Saturday, February 9, 2013 at The Presbyterian Church of Westfield, 140 Mountain Avenue.  A reception will follow at Echo Lake Country Club, 515 Springfield Avenue, Westfield. 


In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Westfield Foundation – Lee and Anne Hale Fund, PO Box 2295, Westfield, NJ 07091.  The family will distribute these donations based on Lee’s wishes.


Photo courtesy of the Lee M. Hale Family