It's fair to call Franklin Ford Palmer III a family man. But it's also fair to say nobody called him Franklin Ford Palmer III.

That was a family name - the Palmers, now based in Upper Township, are into a fifth generation of Franklin Fords. The fourth and fifth go by Ford, but the third family member with that name was better known as Moose or Frank - at least once he grew up.

"But when we went through (Middle Township) high school, he had more nicknames than you can imagine," said Charles Richardson, of Avalon. His old classmate said Palmer's main nickname back then was "Putt-Putt. ... But when we came out of the Navy, all of a sudden he was Moose."

In high school, the two were half of a group with another nickname, the "Unholy Four." They were almost family, so close that all four buddies joined the U.S. Navy together. But once they got in there, their Uncle Sam broke them up.

And Palmer - who was 76 when he died last month - had four kids who all call Richardson their uncle. That's because Moose married his best friend's little sister, Ree.

"I thought he was my buddy, but he ... would come over here, and he and my sister got pretty chummy," said Richardson, who knows how that works: He married Ree's friend and classmate, and the two couples stayed close ever since.

They even used to be neighbors on the same Avalon street. And Moose worked side by side with his buddy-in-law, Richardson, to build each other several houses.

Moose - or Sonny to his wife, and his late mother - was a carpenter by trade. And his last job, where he worked until he was 75, was with a family company. Channel Marine Construction, run by his son, Scott, specializes in building bulkheads. Moose was the finish carpenter, doing the work customers could actually see - and making each job shine, Scott said.

Moose also built his hobbies around his family. He played softball in an Avalon league for years with his three sons. He was the team's pitcher into his 60s, and he won a lot of games - even if he was 20 years older than most other players.

When he got interested in beekeeping, that was a family thing too. He got into it with his youngest son - and next-door neighbor - Brett. (Moose and Ree's only daughter, Kim Post, is another neighbor.) They started a few years ago with two hives; now they have nine.

Brett and his dad also worked together to draw purple martins, the birds, to their property. Moose built special houses - and didn't mind that the birds liked the ones he bought better. He just loved watching "the birds and the bees," Brett said.

"He seemed gruff," Ree added. "But he was very kindhearted. He'd do anything for anybody. And he loved his family."

Contact Martin DeAngelis:

609-272-7237