A tribute to Jack Lamping

During WWI in the French Army soldiers often pledged to each other a final salute called a Tontine. Small groups of comrades would purchase a bottle of brandy to be placed in safe keeping until the last soldier surviving in the group would open the bottle and make a final toast to his departed comrades. Jack Lamping and I had our own Tontine. He was not a drinker so we agreed the final toast was not to be made with a brandy but with tribute at a Memorial Service. This is my Tontine toast to my departed comrade.

We met 52 years ago. It was early on the morning of April 1, 1957. It was my first day on the job as Executive Director of the National Association of Counties (NACo). The phone rang. It was my very first official call. The voice on the other end said that he was Jack Lamping Executive Director of the New Jersey Association of Chosen Freeholders. My first response was to ask him what was a Chosen Freeholder.. He explained that was an elected county official and the group was meeting at weeks end in Salem, New Jersey for the 33rd Annual Shad Roe Dinner. He said it was urgent that I address the group. I accept but with considerable reluctance.

When I arrived he warmly greeted me at the door. He ushered me to the speaker’s table where I noted my name was missing the final D. I was amazed at his resourcefulness. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a small bottle of India ink and sketched in the missing letter. I quickly recognize that he was also a great organizer when he said that they were running very late and asked me if I could shorten my remarks to five minutes. I finished in three minutes and was anxious for reactions. Instead the Presiding Officer politely thanked me and announced he would accept a motion to discontinue the Annual Shad Roe Dinner. It passed unanimously. In one speech I ended a fifty year historic event and launched my half century “Lamping Event” that ends this morning.

From that moment until this my wife Aliceann and I have been in almost constant contact with Jack his beloved wife Virginia and later his wonderful daughter Joy Milano and her family. He and Virginia often accompanied by Joy attended most of 25 NACo’s annual meetings in every corner of our county. In many respects however Jack never left New Jersey.

Jack Lamping was a lover and therefore he was very easy to love. He has gone home now and we have assembled to pay our respects and say goodbye. We were so lucky to have Jack with us for 94 years. Most of the legion of his friends have already gone home, are enfeebled or are too far away to assemble otherwise this gathering would be huge.

It is not possible to think of Jack without thinking of Virginia Lamping or as he called her Beaver or My Honey. Their lives revolved around each other. The high point in their marriage was the day Joy came into their lives. If ever a person was correctly named it is Joy Milano .From walking on the beach at Lamppost to their season tickets at the Metropolitan Opera the two they were as inseparable as newly weds.
My wife Aliceann I were delighted when Jack and Virginia accepted our invitation to join us on a trip to Ireland as a follow-up to my churches peace mission to Ireland aimed at reconciliation between the warring Catholics and Protestants. We had a little concerned because Virginia was in a wheelchair and Jack had injured a leg and walked with a cane. It made not one bit of difference. We went everywhere and did everything with no trouble. The highlight was meant to be a trip through the beautiful Lakes of Kearney. It was pouring rain and there was a deep fog and we saw almost nothing. Jack sat in the backseat writing postcards back home happy as a clam.

Jack was what used to be called a gentleman. He never swore. He never lost his temper. He was never critical of anyone. He did not smoke or drink. He was not egotistical or boastful. He never talked about material things or money. He never told off-color jokes. He was accepting of all people regardless of race color or creed. In one respect he was in effect a feminist. He early championed women as leaders in his county association and he was a mover in organizing the Powder Puff Derby promoting the women airplane pilots.

Jack was a patriot starting in World War II when, rife in hand he helped guard the beaches of New Jersey against German submarines depositing spies and saboteurs. He was a passionate scholar of the early days of our Republic. I have sat for hours with him as he held me spellbound by his intimate knowledge of the personalities strengths and weaknesses of each of our Founding Fathers and confirming his and my believe that they were divinely inspired..

Jack was eccentric in an unusual fashion. He did things because he was comfortable doing them and not to impress other people. For example he wore a derby hat and short pants when no one else did. He had a beat up speed graphic camera hanging around his neck most of the time. He carried flashbulbs in his pocket and constantly took pictures for his magazine. He identified his shots as “Lampix” photos and that became his nic-name. He had one bad photo mishap. On the cover of his magazine he published a photo he had taken of his President and his President’s lovely wife. However it wasn't his president’s lovely wife!

For Jack there are many NEVERS. I ever heard him swear. I never heard him telling off colored story. I never heard him say a critical thing about another person's race color or creed or sexual identity. I never saw him downcast or discouraged. He was his own man and to this day I do not know is he was a Democrat or a Republican.

His forte was public relations and among other things he used these skills to save the historic Barnegat Light. He was constantly at the typewriter or with a pen communicating with someone. He and Virginia maintained and annually edited a mailing list of hundreds of friend who received Christmas, Easter and other greetings. He loved to use multi-colors and a letter from him was like an explosion in a paint factory. He had enormous skill as a writer and I always challenged our staff to carefully review any communication from Jack to see if they could improve it in any way. I never saw him without a camera.

Jack was a devote Methodist and taught Bible Study in this Church for ages. He followed our Churches mandate that we “Believe and let believe.” I do not know Jack's favorite Bible story but one of my favorites from the Gospel of Matthew seems appropriate. It is story of a Master (God) who as he was leaving a long trip assembled three servants and in his absence gave them responsibility to manage his property. Upon his return the Master discovered that one servant had made modest increase in the Master’s property but a second out of fear of failure had made no increase. He was reprimanded. The third servant however managed his Masters properties with great vigor and honor and earned a huge profit. His Master’s reward were this tribute “Well done thou Good and faithful servant”.

Dear Friend this is my Tontine salute. Thank you for your wonderful life of care and service that will remain an inspiration to all of us who loved you. But in a far greater measure I am confident that you have already heard the voice of God saving “Well done Jack thou good and faithful servant”. AMEN

Rev. Bernard F. Hillenbrand
Toms River, New Jersey
November 11. 2009

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