AN EXEMPLARY LIFE
"Greetings my friend," was the way Richard Hale approached everybody he met. A man of great warmth, generosity and humility, Mr. Hale touched thousands of lives across New Jersey but none more so than the indelible mark he left on Rutgers University.
Son of Walter Robert Hale and Nota Harrah Hale who both migrated from the Midwest, Mr. Hale was born in Plainfield and grew up in Edison. Mr. Hale attended Metuchen High School where he became President of the school and met Ruth Westcott, his high school sweetheart and later wife of 59 years. After high school, Mr. Hale enrolled at Rutgers, while Ruth attended Mary Washington College, which later became part of the University of Virginia.
At Rutgers, Mr. Hale played soccer and lacrosse and enrolled in the Rutgers ROTC program. Mr. Hale majored in agriculture and was a member of the Delta Upsilon fraternity. At the end of Mr. Hale's junior year, he was selected for membership in the Cap and Skull Society, the senior honors society of Rutgers. Cap and Skull was founded in 1900 as an organization that each year rewards excellence in academics, athletics and the arts to a select number of worthy students. Beyond academic and athletic performance, Cap and Skull rewards those individuals who during their college years exhibit a commitment that transcends campus life and extends into the larger community. Today, Cap and Skull selects approximately eighteen students amongst the 9000 that annually attend Rutgers. Mr. Hale always considered his selection into Cap and Skull his greatest achievement while attending Rutgers. Throughout his life, Mr. Hale cherished his membership in Cap and Skull and saw the organization as a vehicle for generating school spirit while fostering alumni commitment to Rutgers University. At the time of his passing, Mr. Hale was the senior advisor to Cap and Skull.
After graduation in 1944, Mr. Hale shipped off to Alabama for officer training school along with 49 of his fellow Rutgers classmates. On the train down, the men would open the windows to get fresh air into their train car, only to be met by dirt and dust that was being kicked up by the train and sent back through the train windows. When the men from New Jersey arrived for training, all dirty and dusty, they were named, the "Black Fifty," a name that stuck throughout their military careers (all fifty members of the Black Fifty returned home from World War). After basic training Mr. Hale briefly returned to Rutgers for advanced officers training while also taking graduate courses in engineering, before being shipped to Fort Benning for officer candidate school. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Hale was sent to the West Coast to train for the impending attack on the mainland of Japan. While Mr. Hale was training in California, the allies landed in Normandy. Mr. Hale's orders were changed and he was reassigned to Europe. Unbeknownst at the time, Mr. Hale was about to participate in the Battle of the Bulge. As part of the 86th Blackhawk Division, Mr. Hale was sent to the frontlines of the Bulge and subsequently participated in the allies push into Germany. After Germany surrendered, Mr. Hale was on his way back to the States for reassignment to the Pacific when word spread that an "atomic bomb" was dropped on Japan and the Japanese surrendered.
Lacking the necessary points to be discharged at the time, Mr. Hale was assigned to the Philippines. In the late summer of 1945, Mr. Hale was discharged from active duty.
Although Mr. Hale was discharged from active duty he was "persuaded" by the military to enlist in the active Reserves. Married with two children, Mr. Hale enrolled at Rutgers to work on his Masters degree and during that period received a fellowship to work on Greenbrook Farm, a poultry farm located in North Caldwell. Mr. Hale received his Master's degree in 1948. Shortly thereafter, the Korean War broke-out and Mr. Hale re-enlisted in the Second Infantry Division where he became engaged in the Heartbreak Ridge and Bloody Ridge campaigns.
After Korea, Mr. Hale returned to New Jersey and went into the paving business with his brother Philip. Together, they founded the Halecrest Company. Halecrest Company started building/paving driveways and parking areas but eventually expanded into road construction. The reason Mr. Hale went into the road construction and paving business as opposed to agriculture, was mostly circumstantial. As the cost of land in New Jersey skyrocketed, Mr. Hale foresaw a limited future for farming in New Jersey and instead decided to utilize his engineering background. Over the next four decades, Halecrest grew from a small paving company to a consortium of businesses with a primary focus in construction, construction management and real estate. Following the death of Mr. Hale's brother and partner, the company split into two subsidiaries, with one of the companies run by two of his sons.
As Halecrest grew, the company became involved in sponsoring the Rutgers College football team. In those days, the Rutgers football landscape was drastically different than it is today. There were no television or radio revenues, state funding sources or large alumni donations and as a result, collegiate teams relied heavily on local business to sponsor athletic endeavors. Mr. Hale saw his commitment to Rutgers athletics as nothing more than a continuation of a commitment by the Hale Family to Rutgers athletics. This began with Mr. Hale's father, who was instrumental in going to Washington D.C., to secure the necessary funds to build the original football stadium which was dedicated in 1938.
Stay tuned for Part II - Next Week
Mike and the Big Dog's LLC