Calvin Miles Bell, 91, formerly of Little Silver and Scottsdale, Arizona, passed away peacefully at home on April 28.
Born in 1927, he lived as a child in Matawan and continued to reside there through the early years of his marriage while running his family business. Cal had been a resident of Little Silver since 1995. Previously he had resided in Holmdel for 27 years. He also was a longtime resident of Bay Head.
He was a devoted husband of 67 years to Pearl; loving father to Nina and Scot (Barbara); grandfather to Brooke, Christine and Jeffrey; and great-grandfather to Jack and Elizabeth, in addition to many cherished relatives and in-laws. He was predeceased by his grandson, Craig.
In addition to Cal’s devotion to his family he was a highly accomplished businessman. After an honorable discharge for his Navy service in WWII, he returned home to take on the operations of the family business, butcher shop and grocery store, Bell Beef Co. and Ramllac, which his mother had been running for years to support their family after the early death of his father.
From those beginnings he was instrumental in creating a marketing, merchandising and purchasing cooperative that evolved into Foodtown Supermarkets Inc. which owned and operated its own “state of the art” warehouse distribution system, Twin County Grocers, in the metro New York/metro Philadelphia area. The early entrepreneurs also created the Foodtown brand which became a household name in the tri-state area.
He served as president of Foodtown Supermarkets for 19 years. In addition he had a long tenures as chairman of Twin County Grocers, chairman of New Jersey Food Council and chairman of NJ Food Council for Good Government which helped shape consumer protections in the food industry. He did all this while operating family owned stores. The marketing genius and innovations of his co-owners and competitors functioning together shaped the modern post-WWII era of supermarkets. He believed that a high tide raises all ships and working together improved the lot of all, both locally and globally.
Public service was a way of life for Cal. Seeing a need and solving a problem was in his DNA. He was the first president of the Matawan Area Chamber of Commerce, president of the Liberal Building and Loan Association, chairman of the Bayshore YMCA, chairman of the Matawan Borough Planning Board and generally part of the “go to” team as the Bayshore area grew in between cities with services distance and accessibility challenged.
Proudly he wore the well-earned 50-year membership jacket from the Matawan Fire Department Hook and Ladder Co. Cal also was a charter member of the Matawan Lions Club. He served on the site committee for the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional High School.
Chairman of the board of Bayshore Community Hospital, a 36-year board member, and first chairman of the board of the first Bayshore Health Services, he was involved from the conception and blue print days on the dining room table to the bricks and mortar completion. He was a tireless board member of the Bayshore Hospital Foundation, planning, raising and preserving funding for the future. This group of local residents who recognized a need for service solved it by building their vision.
His involvement with the YMCA dated back to his time as trustee of the Matawan YMCA and also as a trustee of the board of managers of the Arrowhead/Bayshore YMCA. He was proud that Camp Arrowhead taught so many to swim and then to ski on the Marlboro slopes and ski tow. He grew up swimming in Lake Matawan and he wanted opportunity for all to become skilled swimmers and enjoy broader recreational opportunities.
During his Holmdel years the board of Red Bank YMCA and the Holmdel Pool and Tennis committee benefited from having created community facilities.
His faith was served by his skills. He was a member of the board of trustees and the Session of the First Presbyterian Church, Matawan. His 50-year membership also twice spanned the disastrous fire, rebuilding and expansion of the new and larger post fire church with strong fiscal planning foundation. Creating, expanding, planning, funding, protecting improving, were all action verbs and skills Cal applied to every area of daily living. He was a regular member of Valley Presbyterian Church in Scottsdale. He had “home” and “away” jerseys for service. Vacations just relocated his giving of himself. Tower Hill Presbyterian Church was his current church home of the past few decades. He served in financial advisory positions there also.
Cal never met a party he didn’t like. From legendary luaus succeeding generations find incredible to every summer holiday party being “rain relocated” and campfire necessary to wild “abandon everything and jump into the pool” to simple weekend rib dinners for 40 or fireworks on the beach, FUN was his calling card. Celebrities both famous and infamous found their way to his hospitality. Dinners were never dull. In Scottsdale he was a longtime member of the “B.O.Y.S CLUB.” Fellowship of men both in Arizona and New Jersey was important to him. “Great Decisions” current event seminars opened his thinking to untested ideas. Root Beer and Checkers Club in New Jersey included the camaraderie of HOME and the thoughtful challenges and exposures to new ideas. He was always learning and open to the path of consideration of opposite opinions. Yet his firmly held beliefs were never swayed by the prevailing winds.
Cal’s legacy and spirit is truly one that will live on forever with the hearts of his family, friends, business associates and all who have had the good fortune to have known him. Cal was a man of extreme generosity and touched so many lives, including strangers. The stories are endless and will be cherished forever. The void he leaves will be impossible to fill.
A Memorial Service was held May 5 at Tower Hill Presbyterian Church, Red Bank, with visitation and celebration following the service in Webster Hall at the church. Donations may be made in his memory and honor to Stop Children’s Cancer, 2622 NW 43rd St., Suite B3, Gainesville, FL 32606.
If you liked this story, you’ll love our newspaper. Click here to subscribe