James Wrocklage, born with a weak heart, knew he would not serve in the armed forces, his mother said.
The lifelong Waldwick resident served his country instead by honoring those who sacrificed their lives fighting in its wars.
Mr. Wrocklage, who died of a heart attack Friday at 52, lobbied Bergen County towns to include the names of soldiers and sailors missing from war memorials. He also scared up photographs of lost soldiers and sailors for display in American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in Waldwick and elsewhere.
His efforts were underpinned by exhaustive research.
Most recently, Mr. Wrocklage a member of the Sons of the American Legion helped confirm that a Civil War soldier, Pvt. Benjamin Everson, lived in a part of Franklin Township that is now Waldwick. Everson died of typhoid fever five months after joining the Union Army.
"All these guys who were killed, they died for us," Mr. Wrocklage told The Record in 1999 for an article about his avocation.
"We owe it to them, no matter who they were, and no matter what war they were killed in."
One of nine children and a graduate of Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale, James Wrocklage was the son of George H. Wrocklage Jr., an Army veteran of World War II.
Mr. Wrocklage was interested in military history from boyhood, said his mother, Josephine. "There were a lot of movies and everything about the military when he was growing up," she said by way of explanation.
A collector of military paraphernalia, Mr. Wrocklage was well known for his World War I Doughboy uniform, which he wore at Memorial Day parades and other commemorative events.
Nancy Nielsen, president of the Ladies Auxiliary of American Legion Post 57 in Waldwick, said Mr. Wrocklage worked hard to give local fallen heroes their due.
"Jimmy was the one who decided our post should have a picture frame recognizing the men who died while in the service," she said. "He found pictures in old newspapers and on microfilm, and I put the frame together. He did this for various posts in the area.
"I feel Jimmy epitomized what a patriotic citizen should be," she continued. "He loved his country, loved knowing about his country and loved talking about his country."
Mr. Wrocklage was under continuous medical care but his death was unexpected, his 88-year-old mother said.
He also is survived by his brothers, Thomas of Waldwick, Daniel of Kinnelon, Michael of Santa Barbara, Calif., Richard of Wanaque, Donald of Oakland and George of Upper Saddle River; and his sisters, Elizabeth Wrocklage of Waldwick and Eileen Pillori of Parsippany. His father died in 2009.
Visiting is todaywed from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. at Vander Plaat Funeral Home, Wyckoff. The funeral will be held there Thursday at 11 a.m. Email: email@example.com