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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Dec 21, 2020

Recognizing the Wilsons, a Family of Service

By Lori Draz

Walter Wilson

Last month we celebrated Veterans Day and a presidential election, two events that inspire great patriotism. It’s also the month we met 87-year-old Walter Wilson, of Lincroft, who shared the story of his family’s deep roots in Lincroft and even deeper service to the armed forces.

Wilson, a Korean War Veteran who served in the Army infantry 10th Mountain Division, comes from a family of seven children – six brothers and a sister, Ginny. Each of the Wilson brothers served in the military.

His oldest brother, William, was a B-29 bombardier in the Air Force in World War II. Charlie was a lieutenant in the Air Force and was tragically killed in a malfunctioning aircraft in Kelley Field, Texas. Austin Jr. served in the Glider Corp in the Air Force. Kenneth flew a combat B-25 in the Pacific during World War II. Robert was in the Navy and was stationed on the WASP aircraft carrier. He later went on to become the mayor of Highlands. Robert actually enlisted while he was still a high school student, and he completed high school when he returned.

Kenneth Wilson

Kenneth Wilson’s wing ceremony of the WASP aircraft carrier

As if that level of patriotic service to our nation wasn’t impressive enough, Walter shared that his wife, Eva, also came from a family of seven. Eva was a twin and all her siblings were not only girls, but each one of them had married a man in the military. And the family tradition continues to this day. Walter’s 28-year-old grandson, TJ, is currently serving in the army.

It’s an incredible saga of service. Think of all the sleepless nights, the missed holidays and the sacrifices made by this one family, all to preserve the freedom of this great nation. That’s the story Walter wants to share. He wants people to know about what his brothers and brothers-in-law were willing to do to defend their country.

After sharing thrilling stories of his brother’s bravery, Walt also shared his boyhood memories of a Lincroft that most can’t imagine ever existed.

The Wilson family grew up as a sharecropping family, working on a 117-acre potato farm which is now the site of Middletown High School South. Walter attended Lincroft’s two-room Little Red Schoolhouse on Newman Springs Road. There were two teachers who simultaneously taught three grade levels each. The population was so small, Walter said, that he was the only boy in his sixth grade class.

Austin Wilson Jr.

From left: Walt, Ginny and Robert Wilson

He remembers when there was no Garden State Parkway. In fact, seven acres of the farm were sold to complete the parkway project. Additionally, the rail lines from Naval Weapons Station Earle also cut through a corner of the farm, and the military trains continue to roll through from Freehold to their final stop on the Middletown waterfront. The farm’s owner, Mr. Bennett, lived on Shrewsbury Avenue in Red Bank where he also owned a slaughterhouse. Eventually the farm was sold to Lester Lovitt, of Little Silver, who owned Lovitt Farm. The Lovitt Farm’s office was southeast of the post office in Little Silver, and the huge farm grew nursery stock, including a big supply of dogwoods and lilacs. Walter remembers picking lilacs there in November. The Lovitts’ trick was grafting lilac branches to privet hedges, extending their season for florists.

Walter’s love of flowers and farming continued through his career. In addition to being a self-employed carpenter, Walter had a 70-year career in the bee business. Yes, Walter was a career beekeeper. He went onto to work for the state Department of Agriculture from 1973 and 1993 and later for Rutgers research as a bee inspector, where he would check for hives for disease and monitor bees for interstate movement. He also traveled all over the state, conducting lectures for schools, groups and fairs about bees.

William Wilson