John Fletcher Allen, 87
• Korean War Veteran
• Kept History Alive in Griggstown & Montgomery
• April 12, 1932 — July 21, 2019
John Fletcher Allen died after a seven-year battle with cancer on July 21.
He was born on April 12, 1932 in Elat, Ebolowa, Cameroon, West Africa in a hospital run by the Presbyterian Church. His father, James Blaine Allen, who was an architect, had designed and built many of the buildings on the hospital grounds.
John was baptized in Yollandi in a church also built by his father. This church has a stained glass window designed by his father that portrayed the Bible verse: “Suffer the little children to come unto me…” John’s father and mother, Annie Mary Faulkner Allen, were assigned to start a new mission station in Olama, where, along with other structures, his father built a church with a graveyard. When John was six months old, his father took his sister Barbara, then two years old, on a trip to inspect new construction. This required rafting across a river. John’s father was bitten by a poisonous insect and by the time he arrived home the poison was spreading through his body. He died shortly thereafter and was buried in the cemetery he created. John’s mother returned with her children to Chicago, Illinois to be with family.
Given an opportunity to become treasurer for the mission in the Cameroon, which had nine stations and four hospitals, his mother with Barbara (aged 9) and John (aged 7) returned to Africa in 1939. They remained there until 1943. Traveling home was adventurous and included being part of a French Foreign Legion expedition (with prisoners in tow), taking a river boat down the Ubongi River, riding on a train to Cape Town (with a stop for three days at Victoria Falls), catching a ride on an Argentine freighter to South America, and finally flying on Pan American Airline flights to Chicago. This trip took three months and 18 days.
Drafted prior to completing his college education, John served in the U.S. Army from 1952 to 1954. He was active in the Korean conflict, spending 16 months on or above the front line, both prior to and after the truce. He was awarded the Bronze Star and twice received the Combat Infantry Badge, of which he was most proud. When asked about his army experience, John would say they were "the worst two years of my life, but they made me grow up."
John attended Lafayette College, Antioch College, and Fairleigh Dickinson University where he received a bachelor's degree. He worked for a few companies prior to being employed by the Westvaco Company, Park Avenue in New York City as an expert in logistics and inventory control. As a member and treasurer of the Logistics Association, he helped build this organization, which included funding for a scholarship program.
John married Nancy in 1958 and they had two sons, David and Bruce. In 1961 they moved to the Benjamin Griggs house on Canal Road, Griggstown prior to moving to Montgomery Township.
As president of the Griggstown Historical Society (16 years), John wrote a number of grants that restored the 1830 School House (the society’s headquarters) to its original appearance. During his tenure, four documentaries were produced, including “Historic Griggstown Then and Now,” which won a Telly Award.
John was an active board member of the Van Harlingen Historical Society, the Raritan-Millstone Heritage Alliance, and the Griggstown Cemetery Association. He was involved with the creation of the Millstone Valley Scenic Byway. He served on the Montgomery Township Committee. With all these activities, John also found time for tennis and skiing with friends.
John was also a member of the Griggstown Reformed Church, where he served as a deacon, elder (VP of consistory), and as treasurer of their memorial fund. John served a term as president of the Griggstown Fire Company and co-chaired their Memorial Day parade for 12 years. He was honored with a life membership.
With a lifelong love of travel and boating it was natural to combine the two. Family trips were always a highlight of each year. There was the drive around Lake Michigan and pitching the tent at a new campsite each night; the drive cross country; and an amazing adventure to England, Scotland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. But, somehow, his boat would always find its way to Lake George, NY, with the family sometimes camping on the islands and, later on, staying at the Wedding Cake House or the Sagamore Hotel. But it was not just the big things, John was there for his boys daily events: Indian Guides, Boy Scouts, and band concerts.
When David and Bruce grew up, he welcomed his two daughter-in-laws to the family, Katherine and Lorna. John was excited to be a grandfather to three grandchildren, Bruce, Sarah, and Frederick, whom he considered wonderful. He was proud of them and their talents. John and Nancy celebrated their 50th anniversary by taking the family to Disney World.
John is survived by his wife Nancy, and by his sons and their families: David and his wife Katherine and their daughter Sarah; Bruce and his sons Bruce and Frederick. John is also survived by his sister Barbara Blackwell and her daughters, Regina Ann Blackwell and Sarah Blackwell (husband Jose Ramon Malagon and their daughter Erica).
A memorial service will be held at a later date, according to the M.J. Murphy Funeral Home in Monmouth Junction.