TOWNSHIP OF WASHINGTON, N.J.—The Westwood Regional School Board is taking up a request to name the high school turf field after beloved community member Vito “Pal” Trause, who died Oct. 31 at 94.
According to Superintendent of School Raymond A. Gonzalez, the request from members of the public at the Nov. 21 board meeting prompted discussion that is ongoing. The board next meets Dec. 19 at 7:30 p.m.
“Vito Trause was an esteemed member of the school community who, for many years, demonstrated unwavering support for our country, town, high school sports programs, and student-athletes,” Gonzalez told Pascack Press after the meeting.
Indeed, the Westwood Cardinals high school football program loved Trause. Students basked in his war stories and a lifetime of wisdom in their classrooms, where he was invited to mentor.
On his 90th birthday, the Cardinals, the cheerleaders, and most of the student body turned out with balloons and banners at his parade through town.
On Nov. 9, an estimated 250 people attended the dedication outside the public library for the township’s largest veterans memorial, which Life Scout James Stickel, the project’s creator, said Trause had inspired.
Victoria Trause said Stickel had struck a chord with her father because although the project was for the veterans it also unites the community. “That was so important to him. So it was right up his alley,” she said.
A war hero and a true pal
Trause, originally from Carlstadt, dropped out of Becton Regional High School, then East Rutherford High School, to join the fight in Europe in World War II.
Enlisted with the U.S. Army at 18, a year later he was captured, and survived a grueling five months in Stalag VII-A, Germany’s largest prisoner-of-war camp.
In May 1945, Allied troops closed in and liberated the troops. Trause and friends acquired two Harley Davidson motorcycles and made their way to Paris in time for victory festivities on May 8.
In 2018 Becton Principal Dario Sforza presented Trause—who lived in the township with his daughters, Victoria and Cynthia—with his high school diploma 73 years after he dropped out to serve.
In announcing Trause’s passing in the early hours of Nov. 1, Mayor Peter Calamari said the loss was tremendous.
“Words cannot possibly come close to expressing what he meant to everyone who knew him. He was the fabric of this community, its heart and its soul,” he said.
Calamari said Trause “embodied what is best in all of us. Those who knew Vito will never forget his laugh and smile and spirit. A day was always better for having spent time in his presence.”
Honors for Trause at school district
Gonzalez said that to honor Trause’s legacy the high school has worked with others to recognize him:
• Upon notice of his passing, as the school did not have any home sporting events scheduled, the school coordinated with Northern Valley Demarest to make an announcement and have a moment of silence prior to the away football game.
• During the funeral procession through the driveway of the high school, students were invited outside and paid their respects.
• The school plans to observe a moment of silence prior to its first home wrestling match (Dec. 19) and home girls basketball game (Dec. 20) as well having his seat roped off for the entire game, with his jacket on display.
• The School Spirit Award given to one senior athlete each year will be renamed the Vito Trause School Spirit Award.
• The boys basketball team and parent group that runs the annual Cardinals vs. Cancer (Cardinals Care) event intend to raise funds toward a scholarship in honor of Trause.
• The boys basketball team selected the slogan “Hiya Pal” to appear on the warmup shooting shirt for this year’s season.
Gonzalez said other ways that departed and esteemed members of the school community are honored include dedications of rooms and spaces, scholarships, awards, and tree plantings.
The Cardinal Courtyard at the Jr./Sr. High School includes a fountain, benches, tables, and pavers that have been dedicated to those who have served our district, country, and community.
For more, see “Vito ‘Pal’ Trause, Beloved Local War Hero, Dies at 94,” Pascack Press, Nov. 1, 2019 and “Township Dedicates Scout’s Veterans Memorial,” Pascack Press, Nov. 15, 2019.