Whether it was service to family, community, country or church, John Robert Tracey was the best.
Those words from the Rev. Msgr. Herbert Tillyer who served as celebrant Monday at the funeral of the former postmaster and longtime veterans advocate, who died Sept. 26 at 86.
The pastor's voice echoed off the high ceiling of St. Margaret's of Scotland Church, as family, friends and a number of local elected officials came out to pay final respects to the lifelong Morristown resident.
Citing the beatitudes of Tracey's Catholic faith, Tillyer said his friend "did his best to live the beatitudes."
That existed in his reverence for the priesthood, which Tillyer officially joined in 1968, with the support of his good friend Tracey. Six years later, when Tillyer's father died, "Bob was there with me," he said. "We talked, he consoled me. That's the kind of person Bob was. It was just his nature."
Another friend, Arthur Grant, provided the eulogy.
"Why are we here? We mourn Bob Tracey's death, but more importantly, we're here to celebrate his life," Grant said. "And, oh, what a wonderful life he had."
The friend noted Tracey's years as an usher (and, later, head usher) at St. Margaret's, his support of family and his service in both World War II and the Korean War. "To list it all, we would be here for the late news," Grant said.
For years, Grant noted, Tracey served as chair of both Memorial Day and Veterans Day services, and regularly visited veterans at the Lion's Hospital.
That service was most recently honored on July 4, when Veterans Park in Morristown was officially renamed the J. Robert Tracey Veterans Memorial Park. Tracey spoke at the event, in his final public appearance.
"We were all part of that community he sought to serve," Grant said. "We're better off for his service to us."
The friend cited Tracey's skill as an orator and his love for telling stories. "He gave it al he had," Grant said. "Don't think of him as gone away, his journey has just begun."
"For his family ... you are the reason he was able to reach out to many, many other people," the Rev. Tillyer said. "We know how much he loved Morristown and the surrounding communities. My friends, very simply, Bob was the best."
As the pastor finished his time on the dais, he called the end of J. Robert Tracey's life a blessing and privlege "with family and with those he loved.
"He's been up there a few days," Tillyer said. "I hope they arranged for him to give a little talk to someone. You know he'll be ready."