John Gates has called Lake Hopatcong home for decades and he has no plans on leaving anytime soon. gates_blood_drive.jpgJohn, 91, fell in love with the lake in after being recruited—right out of college—by the New York City-based RCA Company. He went to college in Nebraska, graduating with an engineering degree. John was employed by RCA when the company was on the cutting edge of technology...television picture tubes. “When I arrived in New Jersey, May, 1942, I wanted to find out where the nearest lake was. I had spent summers on a lake in Iowa and knew that is what I wanted,” he said. From his East Orange apartment, John would board the Lackawanna train and head for Bertrand Island. “As soon as I saw the size of Lake Hopatcong, I said, ‘This is for me,’” he said. “I bought a Barnegat Bay Sneak Box for $50, which is a duck hunting boat turned into a sailboat. I came up here every weekend.” In October 1942 John returned to Nebraska to marry his girlfriend, Betty, and the two settled into his East Orange apartment, making weekend trips to the lake. In the late 1930s builders were advertising property in Wildwood Shores. Development summer homes were being built and John and Betty liked the area. Lots could be purchased for $395. In 1945 the young couple bought a lot for $600 and later was approached by builder Herb Cutler offering to build them a house—an aluminum house. “It was a new concept, an erector set, aluminum house and I helped put it all together as well as doing a lot of the work inside,” said John. After purchasing a furnace from the Sears and Roebuck catascan0175.jpglog, they eventually decided to live in the house year-round with their son, Bob. They made additions to enlarge the house over the years for the growing family. According to John, there are a few of the aluminum houses still standing in Wildwood Shores, although none are recognizable anymore. John recalled a day out on the boat when it started to rain so badly they had to take cover at a dock on Raccoon Island. It was the dock of the Conlin family and that day the friendship between the two families was forged. In 1957, John and Betty sold their lake house for $13,000 and moved their family to Caldwell to raise Bob and daughter, Jan. There they met a couple named Ruth and Woody Mears and the four became friendly, attending the same church and sending their kids to the same schools. Over the years John returned to school, earning a master’s degree from Stevens Institute and another from MIT. In 1960 the Conlins convinced John and Betty to purchase land on Raccoon Island. John’s offer was immediately accepted and the last ferry trip of the season had the lumber and cement on board to build the Gates new house. The family enjoyed summers on Raccoon Island for 14 years, until Betty’s death on a Labor Day weekend in 1973, at age 53. John sold the house the next year. “As strange as it sounds, we thought age 53 was old back then. Now its so young.” scan0176.jpgBack in Caldwell, Ruth Mears offered support to John—she too was grieving the death of her husband, Woody. John would jokingly tell Ruth he had food in his refrigerator but didn’t know what to do with it. Ruth offered to cook dinner for John on many occasions and before long, John found love again. Ruth and John made their engagement announcement to friends at the Windlass Restaurant. The newlyweds bought a year-round lake home where Ruth taught art classes. Two years later they bought a large historical home on Lakeside Blvd, which they owned for 15 years. In addition to the home’s original name, the Moorings, the couple called their home the Pearly Gates. John served as commodore in 1983-84 of the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club and is an honorary member of the race committee, volunteering his time for 20 years. He has been an active member of Hopatcong’s rotary club for over 30 years and donates blood annually. John loves the lake as much today as he did roughly 70 years ago. He is all for anything that will improve, it but believes more attention needs to be given to controlling what happens to the water and the shoreline around it. Ruth and John bought what John considers his last lake home right back where he began in 1945, Wildwood Shores. Ruth passed away one year ago but John has no plans on moving. John has great memories of the lake and the two very special women he shared his life with. “My parents lived well into their 90s so I think I have some good years ahead of me,” he says with a laugh. “I hope to stay here in this house as long as I can.” The usual questions: What is your first memory of the lake? “My fondest memory is meeting the Conlin family on Raccoon Island. It was because of that family that I became a lover of Raccoon Island. They were very good to me.” Favorite lake destination? “After a day swimming and boating...dinner at the Windlass.” Describe your perfect summer day on the lake. “On a warm summer day I enjoy cruising slowly around the lake to see all the houses. In the evening ...dinner at the Windlass.”  

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