Nov. 7, 2016: Councilman James Wallace, who died early Monday after a long battle with illness, could give the history of any house on any given street, Mayor Pete Cammarano said during Borough Council meeting Monday.
Cammarano gave a warm tribute to the man who several people at the meeting said epitomized the volunteer spirit of the borough.
Wallace, who was born in 1941, spent hours talking about the borough — the people, the streets, the houses, Cammarano said. Wallace was a “historian extraordinaire for Metuchen,” he said.
“He was quick to name a house on any given street and he would give the history of every resident that lived in that house since the 1960s, often he knew the color of the houses as it evolved over time,” Cammarano said.
Wallace spent his life in service of the borough. He worked as a postal carrier for a few years, then joined the Metuchen police department and served as a volunteer firefighter. He held various leadership roles with the fire department, including as chief. He was also past president of the Middlesex County Firefighters Association and instrumental in creation of the county fire academy, Cammarano said.
He retired from the police department in 1992. He joined Borough Council in 2010.
Wallace struggled for the last years of his life with illness. But he never stopped fulfilling his council responsibilities, Council President Ronald Grayzel said. “He wouldn’t have it any other way,” Grayzel said.
Councilwoman Allison Inserro said: “The past year or so was not easy for him but I always admired his sheer will and force to persevere.”
The Metuchen Democratic Committee will present Borough Council with three names to fill Wallace’s seat through his term, which ends this year. Council has authority to pick one of the three people to fill the seat.
Wallace did not run for re-election this year, so one of the successful candidates in Tuesday’s election will eventually fill the seat starting next year.