By MADDY VITALE
To say someone is a veteran, and served his country with dignity to protect others, is enough to garner respect from fellow veterans and civilians.
But to say that a veteran was instrumental in the re-establishment of American Legion Post Morvay-Miley 524 in Ocean City — in fact, the first commander of the post, responsible for the formation of the post charter — elevates that person to another level of service.
Air Force veteran Master Sergeant Bill Cruice, who served in the Korean War and in Vietnam, was that veteran. According to friends and colleagues, he will forever be remembered for helping create Post 524 — a gathering place for veterans and their families, a post that gives back to the community and to other members of the military.
Cruice, of Ocean City, passed away on July 22.
American Post Commander Bob Marzulli remembered Cruice fondly Wednesday as a mentor, a friend, and someone he could always go to for a no-nonsense answer on how to lead the post and do it right.
“I have been commander for 10 years and there is no doubt about it, he was my mentor. Bill set me straight. He never hesitated to tell me when I was doing something right or wrong. There were no mixed messages,” Marzulli explained. “We will definitely miss him. I feel that I am a better commander knowing that I had the guidance from Bill.”
Cruice, born 1934, moved to Ocean City in 1997. He became the commander of Post 524 in 2000.
It was then, that he organized a drive for the veterans to have a meeting place, one where they could share their memories, enjoy camaraderie, and hold events.
According to his obituary, he spearheaded many projects, most notably the annual Memorial Day service held in Memorial Park in Ocean City, honoring America’s fallen soldiers.
On April 14, 2018, during a dedication ceremony of the then-new American Legion Post 524 at 46th Street and West Avenue, Cruice, who was 84 at the time, reflected on how so many years earlier, he and other post members, there were 30 at the time, knocked on doors and began the long journey to having their own building.
The post, which grew to 450 members in 17 years, leased space in four different locations prior to the opening of its new building in 2018.
“I never thought this day would come. I never thought I would live to see it,” Cruice said in 2018 while looking at the crowd of dignitaries, members of the public and fellow veterans during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Cruice was a career military man who began his duty in the Navy and then spent his remaining service time in the Air Force until his retirement in 1972, according to the obituary from Godfrey Funeral Home.
He was predeceased by his wife, Bridget Doyle, of Wicklow, Ireland.
He is survived by his daughter Patricia (husband Craig Marowitz), son Danny (wife Susan), son William Jr., and daughter Jane (husband Frank Barnett), seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild, and his only remaining sibling Mary (and husband John Hynes).
Cruice was also close with many nieces and nephews, especially his nephew, Walt Wilkins, of Egg Harbor Township, his friends at Arlene’s, and band of brothers at the Post.
Marzulli recalled that Cruice’s nephew, Walt Wilkins, took him everywhere, visited with him and ran errands for him.
“They were very close,” Marzulli noted.
Post 524 Adjutant Jack Hagan said of Cruice, “I knew Bill for 20 years and 18 years in the post. I would say it was never about him. He was just someone who knew right from wrong. But he also had a passionate side.”
Hagan said of their friendship, “I was just proud that he called me his friend. He was a special man — no doubt about it. If you are lucky enough to meet just a handful of people like him, you are very fortunate. That is for sure.”
Cruice not only left his mark on Post 524, gained the respect of other veterans, and was cherished by his family, but dignitaries also remarked on the life he led and the impact he made on the community.
During Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian’s message to the public on July 24, he spoke of Cruice, as well as another veteran who passed away last week week, Jim Frisby
“Ocean City lost two of its finest gentlemen this week. I’m sad to report on the passing of Bill Cruice and Jim Frisby,” Gillian said. “Jim was a neighbor, a Navy veteran, a long-time member of the Ocean City Yacht Club and a successful real estate broker.”
The mayor continued, “Bill was a veteran of the wars in Korea and Vietnam, and he was a founder of the Morvay-Miley American Legion Post 524 here in Ocean City. I’m proud that our veterans groups remain strong and provide so many valuable programs in town. We owe a debt of gratitude to people like Bill and Jim for their service to country and community.”
For many years, the construction of a new American Legion Post 524 seemed like an impossible dream. In 2014, the city gave the legion the property to lease for $1 a year for 50 years.
For years, the post had operated out of a building on 33rd Street and Bay Avenue. But like the buildings before it, Post 524 needed a larger space.
Members held a host of fundraisers to rally the community’s financial support to ensure the post would be able to build something special that represents their hard work and dedication to other veterans and to the community.
And it was all done with Cruice at the helm. In his honor, a memorial ceremony will be scheduled in the near future. It will include his family, friends, city and county leaders and county and state American Legion representatives.
The American Legion Post 524’s website http://legion524ocnj.org/ dedicated a page to Cruice with this words:
Master Sergeant William P. (Bill) Cruice (Ret), Past Commander of Post 524 reported to Post Everlasting on Wednesday, July 22, 2020. Bill was the first Commander of our Post and was responsible for the formation of our Post Charter. A Post Memorial Service for our comrade will be held in the near future.
Donations in Bill Cruice’s memory can be made to American Legion Post 524 and mailed to P.O. Box 363, Ocean City, N.J. 08226.