Obituary of Robert W. DeChellis
Robert DeChellis, 81, of Bethlehem Township, passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his loving family. He is survived by Judy, his beloved wife of 57 years, his daughter Amber Leigh and son-in-law Jim Marshall, of Lake Hopatcong, NJ; his son Josh and daughter-in-law Jennifer DeChellis of Annandale, NJ; four grandchildren: Kaleb Williams, Leilah Marshall, Mason and Harrison DeChellis; his sister Carol Hill Albert and brother-in-law Charles Reich of Manhattan, NY.
Born on October 10, 1941, Robert was the son of the late Anthony DeChellis and Margaret DeChellis (nee McCaffrey). Having grown up in Westfield, NJ, during the 1950’s, he had a somewhat idyllic childhood. He met his wife Judy in the sixth grade. Although they shared similar circles of friends, their first date wouldn’t come until after he had left Special Forces and Judy was a teacher in Westfield. It was pretty much love at first sight, and they were married seven months later.
Robert enlisted in the Army and found great joy in serving his country. He was assigned to Panama during the Panamanian riots and was sitting on the tarmac ready to fly to Cuba when Kennedy peacefully resolved the Cuban Missile Crisis. Having served in the Army remained integral to the man he became. Later in life, Tuesday mornings were special for Bobby, known as “Gem Vac Vet Days”, where he enjoyed the camaraderie and swapping of war stories with his fellow Vets. He had a jacket and cap filled with Army memorabilia and wore them proudly. He especially enjoyed driving World War II Vets in his snazzy old white convertible in Memorial and Labor Day Parades.
After the Army, Robert completed his undergraduate studies at Upsala College in New Jersey. He then attended Valparaiso School of Law in Indiana on a full tuition scholarship. When he and Judy returned to New Jersey, he worked as a part of the Rittenhouse & Pasani law offices, and for several years served as Assistant County Prosecutor for Hunterdon County.
Later, Robert opened his own law office in Clinton where he was a popular and well-known figure around town. For most of the year, many knew him as Robert DeChellis, but at Christmas time, the office became that of Scrooge & Marley - a tradition still carried on to this day.
He was known not only for his legal skills, but also his down-to-earth and approachable manner. Few could spin a yarn as could Robert, and frequently you would find him having lunch at The Towne Luncheonette, where he swapped stories with his regular weekday buddies and shared a seemingly inexhaustible treasure trove of stories from all parts of his life; his exploits with the Army and his hi-jinks with his high school buddies.
Robert was, in addition, the ultimate family man who especially enjoyed presiding over family holidays, artfully carving (not sure Josh ever agreed) Thanksgiving turkeys, while at the same time keeping everyone, especially his grandchildren, endlessly entertained.
Family time was so special to Bobby. He worked long hours over the years, but he always managed to attend all the children’s functions, from nursery school through high school. Morning time was the best. The kids would climb into their parents’ bed, and he would spin endless stories about Phillip the Fist and Sammy the Snake; however, most enduring, and meaningful were his Bruce Stories.
Vacations were always planned well in advance. Although the kids would have much preferred time at the beach, the “teacher” in Judy took over. Together, they visited Boston, Washington DC, Gettysburg, Newport, Rhode Island, to name a few. Bobby loved the trips and regaled the kids with history; the kids endured the trips. Judy was well rewarded when their first grandchild, Kaleb, developed an intense love of history. Bobby and Judy could do the same trips, this time with an avid listener. Sadly, Bobby passed away a month before a planned trip with Kaleb to Normandy.
Robert was a man of style. He was, as one of his children said, “definitely dapper”. It was rare to see Robert without a cap and he made his canes look like the latest fashion item.
Robert will be remembered by many, for many things. Robert was totally non-judgmental and generous to all. Those who knew him best knew that behind that wonderful warm smile and cheerful good humor, there was an endlessly curious and thoughtful mind. Robert was a lifelong passionate and dedicated student of the law, politics, and particularly history and the Constitution. He was known within the family as “Jeopardy Smart”. Robert was a loving husband, father, and grandfather. There will forever be an empty chair at our family table.
Celebration of Robert’s Life will be held on Monday, May 15th from 4:00 pm until 7:00 pm, at Juniper Hill, 73 Beaver Avenue, Annandale NJ,08801. Military Honors and words of remembrance will begin at 6:00 pm. In lieu of flowers donations may be made in Robert’s name to the Wounded Warrior Project (Please Click Here to Donate)