I would like to pay tribute to Pete Weale, my frequent pen pal during my days as editor of the West Windsor and Plainsboro News, who died March 25 at the age of 66.
Weale’s obituary described him as “a father, educator, entrepreneur who enjoyed challenging the status quo. In his 33 years residing in the Princeton/West Windsor area, his commitment to the community resulted in years of involvement with the school district and community organizations like West Windsor Little League, well after his children were able to reap the benefits of his efforts.
He had an affinity for collecting antique furniture, cars, bars, and pretty much anything that was older than he.”
Weale was a resolute champion of the idea that government by the people sometimes meant just that — the people had to be ready to do it by themselves. As his obituary noted: “Residents of West Windsor and Princeton Junction fondly recall memories of Peter driving his Ford Model T pickup with a lawn mower as he took the initiative to mow and maintain areas such as the Penns Neck Circle, not only for esthetics but for the safety of complete strangers.”
Officials in town dismissed Weale as a guy who had too much time on his hands. And Weale was clearly out of line for injecting an ethnic slur into his criticism of longtime West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh (referring to him as “Tofu Hsueh”). And some of his ideas were far-fetched.
While I never hesitated to disagree with him, Weale never took it personally (and he never hid his opinions behind anonymous posts as many people in small towns do). In reading Weale’s steady stream of e-mails I always reminded myself of the adage: Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
An alumnus of Cornell and its MBA program, Weale was probably just as proud of his Marine Corps service. His gung ho approach in West Windsor included raising money to buy lights for the high school football field. His plan was turned down, but the district later relented and allowed the booster club to follow through.
Fed up with the presence of boarded up buildings that made Princeton Junction look like, in his phrase, Plywood Junction, Weale gathered paint and brushes and painted the plywood boards over.
Weale lobbied incessantly for the West Windsor-Plainsboro Board of Education to videotape its meetings, as almost every other area school board and municipality did. After years of complaining, the district finally caved in.
One of Weale’s better ideas, at least in my mind, was to transform the small, and now neglected, pond and grassy area enclosed by the circular drive from Wallace Road leading to the Princeton Junction train station into a mini-park. He called it the “Oasis at Princeton Junction.” The oasis won’t be created anytime soon — multiple state entities control the land around it. But at least Weale planted the seed.
In his last letter to the WW-P News, in October of last year, Weale decried the public sector bureaucrats “simply collecting paychecks while getting closer to retirement.” But, he added, “we also have some excellent personnel trying to make a difference. If you don’t know the history, we are doomed to repeat it. Please get involved.”
— Richard K. Rein
Rein is editorial director of Community News Service, which publishes the West Windsor-Plainsboro News. He was the editor of the News from 2000 to 2016.
I only met Pete Weale once, but he left a lasting impression on me. We met briefly at a WW-P School Board meeting in 2014, where we spoke to the board about naming the North baseball field after David Bachner.
Pete’s letter to the WWP News was why I got involved with helping the naming effort. Pete started asking for the North field to be named shortly after David’s death in 2009 and never stopped. What I admired most about Pete was his dedication to community causes and his willingness to speak out and try to make a difference.
If you frequented the old WWP News forums, you could be sure to see his fiery letters and comments every week. I used to look forward to those letters and comments and the community interaction that would occur from his postings.
I miss those old forums and I’ll miss Pete, who could be counted on to make them come alive with his challenges to the community stories.
Some found Pete to be brusque, difficult or a curmudgeon. I know that from a distance, that is what occurred to me. Being extremely shy with strangers, I really feel like I missed an opportunity to talk to Pete before he passed. I would have liked to have heard more from Pete and his thoughts of David Bachner.
We need people like Pete to help voice what many of us are often thinking about our community issues. I haven’t seen anything online in this space in the letters or articles section about Pete Weale and that’s unfortunate.
He deserves to be remembered here. His impact should not be dismissed or forgotten. I hope others that knew him better than I will write a letter or even try to use the comment section on the internet.
— Tim Hitchings, Plainsboro