Wayne Tozer wasn’t afraid to get involved in politics.
He ran twice for Dennis Township Committee, and won once. He also served on his township’s school board, and he worked the polls in almost every election over the past 10 or 12 years.
Tozer would have been at the polls again last Tuesday, too, except he died last month at 73.
So he was missed on Election Day — but not just by the people he agreed with politically.
“He was a D and I’m an R,” says Jim Waltz, another veteran worker at the same polls — meaning Democrat and Republican, of course. “We had the usual back and forth, but it was all in fun. ... We’d say, ‘You’re a nice guy, but you’ve just got the wrong party.’”
Now here is Garry Hunter, Tozer’s next-door neighbor in the Clermont section of the township — and the opponent Tozer beat in one of those committee races.
That was in the late 1960s, by Hunter’s best guess. But about this, he is absolutely sure:
“Friends before, friends after,” Hunter says, describing their relationship, and how politics affected it. “Friends until the day he passed. ... There was no question about that. Our friendship and our faith came first.”
Carole Tozer, Wayne’s wife of 55 years, says Wayne ran again the next election — and lost by one vote. His life went on.
Because there was a lot more to Wayne than politics. He was the father of seven: Robert, Richard, Russell, Rhonda, Randi, Renee and Ryan. (All those R names actually start with Wayne’s — his real first name was Robert.)
He was a carpenter who could make just about anything with his hands and wood. He also helped start the Dennis Township Rescue Squad and was a member of the Ocean View Fire Co., but later became a full-time emergency medical technician with the Belleplain Ambulance Corps. His wife says that’s where his real passion for work lay.
“He was so lucky to know what his calling was,” Carole says. “Wayne knew what he was supposed to do, and he was so good at it.”
The youngest daughter in the family, now Renee Pettit, says he also passed that sense of public service on to his kids — all of whom still live around Cape May County, a few within sight of their parents’ home.
“My oldest brother is a nurse. Two of us were on the school board, and two of us were foster parents. ... My mom was PTA president. We saw them being community-minded, and all of us ... have taken that on,” she says.
Politics wasn’t a dirty word at the dinner table, Pettit adds — Wayne was involved, and he wanted his kids to be, too.
And after last week’s national election, which produced so much bitterness on both sides, it’s refreshing to hear about a life that proves politics doesn’t have to be that way.
A Life Lived appears Tuesday and Saturday.
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