Township Receives Gift of Painting of Bob Vaucher
BRIDGEWATER, NJ – Bob Vaucher will live on in the memories of Bridgewater residents for a long time – and in a painting that bears his distinctive resemblance.
A copy of the painting, created by James Fiorentino, was unveiled at the Bridgewater Township Council virtual meeting on February 11, just four days after Vaucher’s death at the age of 102. The presentation was moderated by Linda Mead, President and CEO of D&R, Greenway Land Trust.
Councilor Timothy Ring explained how Vaucher had pushed ahead with the preservation of Wemple property in the community after the death of his friend John Wemple.
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“He mobilized the troops,” said Ring of Vaucher, a highly decorated US Army Air Force aviator from World War II.
Among his many military achievements, Vaucher led a flight of 525 B-29 bombers over the battleship USS Missouri in September 1945 after Japan signed peace terms with the United States to officially end the conflict.
The Wemple estate was later renamed and is now known as the Vaucher Revolutionary Preserve at Steele’s Gap. The sign with the new name was donated by D&R Greenway, which helped purchase the land from a contractor.
“It was a privilege to work with Bridgewater on the Wemple Wing,” said Mead.
She remembered how she met Vaucher before he turned 100. She said he had come to the company’s Princeton headquarters to speak to D&R Greenway about the Wemple property, and she remembered how “amazed” she was that he could sit there and speak like that clearly about the property and his deceased friend.
“We started a journey together,” said Mead.
This trip culminated in the acquisition of the property. Nearly 80 neighbors donated money, and many other companies joined in thanks to Vaucher’s inspiration.
“It’s an honor to bring a special painting and show it to the community,” said Mead of the Vaucher portrait, which shows the retired military man sitting on the porch of his long-standing Bridgewater home across from the Wemple property shown in the background.
The painting is expected to be displayed in the Bridgewater Township meetinghouse on Commons Way.
“He was a community, wartime, and conservation hero in many ways,” Mead said. “We are honored to be a part of it.”
She said that D&R Greenway’s future work on the property will include creating paths directly across from Vaucher’s home. She also thanked his family for their support before handing the program over to Fiorentino, who is Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of D&R Greenway and who had the opportunity to meet Vaucher last year.
“I am blessed and happy to have the opportunity to create this painting,” said Fiorentino.
His art has won many awards and has been featured in galleries across America, including the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the Museum in Cooperstown, NY
Fiorentino said he painted many important people, including baseball star Ted Williams, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and Congressman John Lewis, and he put Vaucher “together with everyone”. He hopes that his original Vaucher painting will find its way into various galleries over the next few years and one day will be exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery.
Fiorentino also said that Vaucher’s family already owned a limited edition version of the painting and that he had finished the work a week before Vaucher’s illness, although he could show him electronically via zoom.
“It is an honor to be here tonight and to paint this painting,” said Fiorentino, who then donated his work to the community.
Ring called the painting “a wonderful piece of work” while Mayor Matthew Moench called it “phenomenal”.
“It is a beautiful painting and we will appreciate it,” said Council President Filipe Pedroso. “It will be an important addition to our town hall.”
He said the congregation will also seek other ways to honor Vaucher, who was remembered in a council proclamation that same evening. Future honors could potentially include renaming the community administration building to the late Air Force Lieutenant Colonel.
“Thank you for your gift to our city,” said Pedroso.