Gene "Mr. Clinton" De Cleene

August 10, 1934 - May 31, 2018
Gene “Mr. Clinton”   De Cleene thumbnail
 
Wright & Ford Family Funeral Home and Cremation Services
Donna Holbrook Appel
Jack Jeffries
Ed Hahola
Pat Radzicki
Craig Sailer
Alan and Blair Moore
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Obituary

Gene “Mr. Clinton” De Cleene, age 83 years, life long resident of Clinton, NJ, died peacefully on Thursday, May 31, 2018, with family and friends by his side at Country Arch Care Center, Union Township, Hunterdon County, NJ after a short illness.

Born at home on Center Street in Clinton on August 10, 1934, son of the late Emile and Lourraine Hurtt De Cleene, Gene resided in that home his entire life.

Gene lived a storied life of a boy growing up in small town America; knowing everyone, working hard, giving back and living a happy and fulfilled life.

Beginning with a home birth in 1934, Gene was raised in a time where everyone knew everyone and neighbors were friends. His grandparents owned the famous Clinton House at the time, and many days were spent there where most of the town gathered regularly. Always outgoing, this is where he first made his impression on all who knew him.

Education was extremely important to his parents, and he was sent to Oratory Prep in Summit, NJ for school. The sudden death of his mother in 1946 changed things for the family, and Gene stayed closer to home for school, becoming a member of the first graduating class of the newly built North Hunterdon Regional High School in 1952. He was one of 99 graduates that year, and being the strong athlete that he was, he became the schools very first Basketball Team Captain and Football Team Quarterback. Even in his younger years, he was always a leader; humble and caring to all he ever came in contact with.

That “people person” part of his persona would serve him well as he went off to serve in the United States Army, being honorably discharged in 1958 after serving a tour in Germany as an aircraft mechanic.

Returning home from the service, he went to work for the Highway Department. He then ventured into the insurance profession, first working as an Insurance Agent for Coss Insurance Agency, Clinton, NJ. Gene, always learning, then became a Real Estate Agent for Weichert Realtors, Clinton, NJ, where he assisted many people over the years finding them just the right space for their needs.

Insurance called him back and Gene then owned and operated Eugene De Cleene Insurance Agency, Clinton, NJ. Retiring from insurance, Gene would then become a Postal Carrier for the United States Post Office, working out of Lebanon, NJ. Work was in his blood and over his life he greatly enjoyed his various careers, all of which had him always in direct contact helping people

During this time he still stayed a central figure in his beloved Clinton, NJ, being encouraged to run for Town Council in 1984 and holding the position until 2008. He did take a four year hiatus from 1989-1993, when he was appointed to the Hunterdon County Board of Elections. Gene was loved by all, as he was not a politician but rather a neighbor and person who cared about his community. He was known to listen to all sides of an issue, and always vote for what was best for the town and its people. He certainly could be called a consensus builder, which he felt was the best way to move the town forward for the better.

In 2017 he was the first recipient of the newly created, “Eugene De Cleene Civic Engagement Award,” established by the Hunterdon County Democratic Committee. They created the award in order to honor someone each year who shows the type of genuine passion for their community like Gene did. Upon learning of the award and being named its first recipient, Gene responded humbly, “I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. As I get older, I see the hope of our town!” His passion for Clinton and its citizens, as well as the community at large, never faded.

He was very active in the community in many other ways and will forever be remembered as the “Town Crier” wearing his red cloak, tri-corner hat, and ringing his bell loudly proclaiming all good things. From car shows to parades, weddings to Christmas fairs, Gene’s booming voice could be heard above all others without a microphone. He loved this role and many children eagerly looked for him at every town event just so they could take a photo with him.

Gene was a Life member of both the Clinton Fire Department as well as the Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad. He had a passion for emergency services and always strove to make sure volunteerism and that genuine desire to help a neighbor were always on people’s minds. The best part: Gene led by example. He was a doer and not only, “talked the talk,” but also, “walked the walk!” He served as Past President, Banquet Chairman and Captain of the Fire Police for the Fire Department and was always known for selling the most raffle tickets for the Rescue Squad at all their functions in addition to riding the ambulance helping to save countless lives over the years.

A second father and grandfather to many, family was important to Gene. He encouraged his children to be the best versions of themselves and to always reach for the stars. This attitude is probably the best way to describe this man of action, integrity, genuineness and love. To sum up Gene, one only need to look to his own words from a short movie that was made about his life in which he states, “I think every ordinary citizen could be a hero as long as you do your best for society.” Gene tried daily to do his best for all peoples, and the world is certainly a better place for him having passed through it, and leaving a legacy that will endure for many, many years.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife, Sharon Graycar De Cleene in 1999; his former wife, Peggy De Cleene; and two of his most cherished canine companions, his yellow Labrador retrievers Cooper and Trex.

Surviving are a daughter and her longtime partner, Suzanne Bridge and Rick Latza; a daughter and son-in-law, Joni and John Pritchard; a son and daughter-in-law, Eugene M. and Kim De Cleene; his step-mother, Marialice De Cleene; two half-brothers and sisters-in-law, Emile and Bonnie De Cleene and Mark and Valerie De Cleene; two brothers-in-law and their spouses, Brian and Eileen Graycar and Michel and Pat Graycar; five grandchildren; one great grandchild; several nieces, nephews and extended family; and many dear friends.

Life celebration services will take place on Tuesday, June 5, 2018 at 7:45 p.m. in Wright & Ford Family Funeral Home and Cremation Services, 38 State Highway 31, Flemington, NJ. This will be preceded by joint services by the Clinton Fire Department and the Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad at 7:30 p.m.

Gene will lie in repose on Tuesday, June 5, 2018 from 3:30-7:30 at the funeral home.

Graveside committal prayers offered by longtime friend Deacon William Bauer, followed by burial with military honors in the family plot at Old St. Mary’s Cemetery, Halstead Street, Clinton, NJ, will take place on Wednesday, June 6, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. The funeral procession will begin from the area of the Clinton House on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., as Gene is escorted on Clinton Fire Department’s “LuLuBelle” through his, “old stomping grounds.” Anyone wishing to meet and join the procession to the cemetery is welcome and encouraged. Funeral home care team members will be on hand to assist you with joining the procession. Please note that there will be no procession from Flemington to Clinton on Wednesday morning. Please also be advised that parking at the cemetery will be on the northbound side of Halstead Street, or in the Water Authority Field only. There will be escorts to cross the street. Please do not block the road at any point.

Please visit Gene’s permanent memorial site at www.wrightfamily.com where one can light a memorial candle and leave a message of condolence and words of comfort, as well as share stories and photographs of his life.

To view a film made in 2017 about Gene’s life that was made by Mark K. Zhutianli with the support of the Town of Clinton, please click HERE. Please note you will be taken to a new window or, you can click the link above marked, “Watch Tribute Video” to remain on this page.

The family is extremely grateful to the entire community for the tremendous outpouring of love and support. They are strongly encouraging that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions be made to Rogers’ Rescues, 531 Route 22 East, Suite 191, Whitehouse Station, NJ 08889 or to the Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad, who were always there in seconds for Gene when he needed them later in life for his medical issues. Contributions can be made online or mailed to PO Box 5265, Clinton NJ 08809.

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Service Schedule

Visitation Information

Date: Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Time: 3:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Wright & Ford Family Funeral Home and Cremation Services, "A Life Celebration Home"

Address:

38 State Highway 31
Flemington, NJ 08822

Service Information

Date: Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Time: 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Wright & Ford Family Funeral Home and Cremation Services, "A Life Celebration Home"

Address:

38 State Highway 31
Flemington, NJ 08822

Joint services by the Clinton Fire Department and the Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad, of which Gene was a Life Member of both, will begin at 7:30 p.m., immediately followed by a Life Celebration service at 7:45 p.m.

 


Cemetery Information

Date: Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Time: 11:00 am - 11:30 am

Old St. Mary's Cemetery

Address:

Halstead Street
Clinton, NJ 08809

Graveside committal prayers offered by longtime friend Deacon William Bauer, followed by burial with military honors in the family plot at Old St. Mary’s Cemetery, Halstead Street, Clinton, NJ, will take place on Wednesday, June 6, 2018 at 11:00 a.m.

The funeral procession will begin from the area of the Clinton House on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., as Gene is escorted on Clinton Fire Department’s “LuLuBelle” through his, “old stomping grounds.” Anyone wishing to meet and join the procession to the cemetery is welcome and encouraged. Funeral home care team members will be on hand to assist you with joining the procession.

Please note that there will be no procession from Flemington to Clinton on Wednesday morning. Please also be advised that parking at the cemetery will be on the northbound side of Halstead Street, or in the Water Authority Field only. Their will be escorts to cross the street. Please do not block the road at any point.


Donation Information

Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad

The family is extremely grateful to the entire community for the tremendous outpouring of love and support. They are strongly encouraging that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions be made to Rodgers’ Rescues, 531 Route 22 East, Suite 191, Whitehouse Station, NJ 08889 or to the Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad, who were always there in seconds for Gene when he needed them later in life for his medical issues. Contributions can be made online or mailed to PO Box 5265, Clinton NJ 08809.

The Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad is a nonprofit organization that provides pre-hospital Emergency Medical Services and Rescue Services (vehicle extrication, water rescue, collapse, trench, rope and confined-space rescue) to the Town of Clinton, and portions of Clinton Township, Lebanon Borough, Franklin Township and Union Township. Our members run approximately 3,000 calls a year in the 52 square miles we cover.  In 2018 we proudly celebrate 50 years of providing services to our Communities.

Phone: 908-735-4012

PO Box 5265
Clinton, NJ 08809
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Life Event Timeline

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Timeline for Gene "Mr. Clinton" De Cleene

Born: August 10, 1934
 
August 10, 1934
Born at home on Center Street, Clinton, New Jersey
Born at home on Center Street, Clinton, New Jersey
 
May 31, 2018
Entered Into Eternal Life, Country Arch Care Center, Union Township, Hunterdon County, NJ
Entered Into Eternal Life, Country Arch Care Center, Union Township, Hunterdon County, NJ
Died: May 31, 2018

Condolences for Gene “Mr. Clinton” De Cleene

Wright & Ford Family Funeral Home and Cremation Services

Our sincerest condolences.

Please know that we are here for all of you, however we may be of service.

Respectfully,

D.J. Wright and the entire Wright & Ford Life Celebration Care Team Family

 

Donna Holbrook Appel posted on 7/12/18

Sorry to hear of your loss Joni and family. I remember your dad. I have so many fond memories of Clinton, of grammar school years that led into high school. I'm proud to have come from the Clinton area, to have attended NHRHS and all that went with it. My first apartment was in Clinton over the pet food store. My first bank was on the corner. My first part time job was at Ye Olde Sub Base. I loved the luncheonette and shopped at the five and dime. I watched the video that was done in tribute to "Mr. Clinton"! You must be proud. I cried. Those were wonderful years. May your dad rest in peace knowing he did a great service to the community and to our country. I hope I get to see you soon Joni. I miss you and remember high school days, slumber parties, dances, parades and all the wonderful things that go along with having great school mates and living in a great community. Thank you Mr. De Cleene for making our community so memorable. Love Donna Holbrook Appel

 

Patrick and Andra Taylor posted on 6/6/18

A message to Gene's entire extended family; We were so very honored to know Gene throughout our years in Clinton. He was such a warm and wonderful person and he will be greatly missed. His fight and attitude against the cancer beast were to be admired. Our Condolences

 

William Staudinger posted on 6/5/18

Special people in our lives are never really gone. They will always be remembered . Suzanne, Hope you find comfort in your special memories. Bill Staudinger Class of '52

 

Laura Tullo posted on 6/4/18

I will miss seeing you around and talking to you.Rest in peace.

 

Jack Jeffries posted on 6/4/18

I always enjoyed running into Gene. We had many fun and interesting talks. He will be missed deeply.

 

Arlene L. posted on 6/4/18

Suzanne. I'm so sorry for your loss. May your happy and amazing memories help you through this sad time.

 

Ed Hahola posted on 6/4/18

When One thinks of Clinton, Gene comes to mind right away as Gene has dedicated his life to helping people, especially the Town that he so loved and was a constant important cornerstone of the Town. Gene will be greatly missed by not only is Family, but All of the Lives that he made a difference in. Thoughts and Prayers with his Family and Friends. May He Rest In Peace...Godspeed.

 

eugene w oneill posted on 6/3/18

We were so sorry to hear of Eugene's passing. He certainly was a witness to all who knew him. Our sincere condolences, With love, Irene & Eugene O'Neill

 

Fran and Robert Rittman posted on 6/3/18

Robert and I are so sorry to hear of your dad's passing, Suzanne. He sounds like an amazing fellow and I am sure he will be sorely missed. Peace and love and many hugs to you and your family.

 

Molly Werner posted on 6/3/18

God Bless this wonderful man. Thank you for all you done for all of us in Hunterdon County, especially in the Town of Clinton. Now, ..may you rest in well deserved eternal peace.

 

Rosi Efthim posted on 6/3/18

Aw, Gene, you were such a lovely man. First time I met you, I was introduced by your friends Bill & Joan Martin, years ago. You were a class act, a great Democrat (thanks for all you did for so many years) and a cheerful person to have the privilege of knowing.

 

Phil & Diane Koury posted on 6/3/18

Back in 1991, Gene was one of the first people we met when we opened our McDonald’s in Clinton. We looked forward to him at the Christmas Parade every year dressed as the “Town Crier” and chatting with him in town . He was a friendly man whose tri-cornered hat will be hard to fill. Rest In Peace, Gene- until we meet again under the heavenly Golden Arches. Phil & Diane Koury McDonald’s Of Clinton

 

Lois & Joe Zarish posted on 6/3/18

Gene was always an upbeat person. I'll always remember how positive he was. I met him through the Hunterdon County Democratic Party. He cared about his Town of Clinton and the people who lived there. Great Leader, Good Person who would say it how it was. Rest in peace Gene. We will miss you.

 

Caitlyn posted on 6/2/18

So sorry for your loss. Rest In Peace

 

Pat Radzicki posted on 6/2/18

Rest in peace Gene. You will be missed! Pat and Jim Radzicki

 

Patty Schuetz posted on 6/2/18

Dear Suzanne, We were so sad to hear of your Dads passing. I'm sure he is at peace now , with the love of his life, your Mom. They both will live forever in your everyday thoughts and memories . Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this sad and difficult time. Love, Patty & Ed Schuetz

 

Ada Botzan posted on 6/2/18

I’m so sorry to hear of the passing of Gene and I will always remember him as such a true Gentleman and a friend to all. I worked with Gene at Fisher Scientific many years ago but lived in Clinton for a long time and ran into him occasionally. He will be sorely missed by friends and family. It was a true honor to know him. Ada Botzan

 

Brian Manning posted on 6/2/18

On behalf of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, Hunterdon County, I would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the entire DeCleene family. Gene was a great friend to the Friendly Sons and was a fixture at our Parades and other events in Clinton. Ar dheis De go raibh an anam dilis. (May his sweet soul be at the right hand of God) Brian Manning President, FSSP

 

Virginia (DeCleene) Paulus posted on 6/2/18

As cousins we grew up together and I'll always have happy memories of the good times we shared. You never let me forget that I was two days older than you, especially as we grew closer to these mid eighties. Sincerest condolences from my family to your family, and may God give you one of the best seats in the house.

 

Lowell Snare posted on 6/2/18

I, like so many others, knew Gene most of my life and he is going to be missed dearly by all those that did know him...I will miss sitting with him in front of Nick's in Clinton watching the town roll by and talking with him about old-time Clinton...He was a special man, but who will I buy my Fireman raffle tickets from now....I will be one of those that will think how empty the town will be without him...

 

Craig Sailer posted on 6/2/18

Our condolences. I knew him for most of my life and he was close with my family. Gene was always friendly, kind and supportive no matter what the situation. We got a chance to see him a lot of the last several years and he would always have a smile and something good to say as he always did. He will be missed dearly. RIP Gene and see you on the other side. Respectfully, Craig and Cecilia Sailer

 

Alan and Blair Moore posted on 6/2/18

In memory of Gene "Mr. Clinton" De Cleene, Alan and Blair Moore lit a candle

 

Alan and Blair Moore posted on 6/2/18

Gene welcomed our family into Clinton in 2006 as if we were long-lost relatives. We will never forget his warmth and willingness to extend an open hand and hug to us, making us feel like “insiders” rather than “outsiders.” We love him and will always hold fond memories of the friendship we had with him. The World is a little less friendly today, but we will do our best to emulate his spirit!

 

Carolyn Conklin posted on 6/2/18

Sorry to hear of Gene's passing. Glad I got to see him Sunday. My prayers go out to the family. I will miss his smiling face when walking the streets of Clinton!!

 

Jacqueline Gaskins posted on 6/1/18

Wow ... this a shocker to me. Sooo sorry to hear about your loss. Gene was a great human being. Awesome to talk with and he never had a hate in his body. He will be sadly missed. I will always remember the good times with him. I was a member of the ladies auxiliary back in 1991.

 

Nancy posted on 6/1/18

In memory of Eugene E. "Gene" "Mr. Clinton" De Cleene, Nancy lit a candle

 

Robert & Suzanne Becker posted on 6/1/18

Gene: We will surely miss you at the Clinton Citispot Coffee Shop and anywhere else around town we would see you. I have known you since high school in the early 50;s. You are now in Gods hands, I pray that he gives you all the rewards due you for all the good deeds you have done. May God Bless you and your family. We are in Florida and will not be back until June 11th. Bob and Suzy Becker

 

Sharon posted on 6/1/18

Suzanne, sending prayers and condolences in the loss of your father. May he Rest In Peace🙏🏻.

 

Sharon posted on 6/1/18

Suzanne, sending prayers and condolences in the loss of your father. May he Rest In Peace🙏🏻.

 

Kyle Keiderling posted on 6/1/18

RIP Gene. It's tough being a Democrat in a Republican County but Gene was always a class act. He married a classmate of mine,Sharon Graycar, who passed away far too young. My sincere condolences to the family.

 

Anthony W.Sidtis posted on 6/1/18

Miss being you’re number 2 man at the Towne Restaurant and loved the good times and laughs we shared over the last 20 years. Until we can dine together on the other side, Rest In Peace Gene and thanks for the memories!

 

Bob Nulman posted on 5/31/18

Every winning politician needs a right-hand man/woman who handles all the behind the scenes magic. I had a very successful political career as a NJ mayor and councilman from 1975 to 1993. In my seven consecutive winning elections I always relied on my friend/campaign manager Gene DeCleene to do all the organizing and legwork. He was my dedicated confidante, advisor, aide, unsung hero and chief-of-staff over a 47-year friendship. We never had a falling out and were the best of friends through the good times and the difficult ones. I owe everything to Gene. He was the most loyal, dependable, hard working colleague you could ever ask for. Never complained about my many requests; never asked for anything but my friendship. Now he is gone after a lengthy illness and I have such mixed emotions. My heart hurts but Eugene DeCleene finally has peace. I have expressed my feelings to his family and friends. This is my public expression of deep thanks and appreciation for a best friend whose gifts I can never repay! 💔

 

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