Walter Zimmerer Jr., Owner of Big Brook Farm in Colts Neck, Dies at 94
Zimmerer owned Big Brook Farm in Colts Neck.
Walter C. Zimmerer Jr., 94, of Colts Neck, peacefully passed away on Saturday, Sept. 15 at his home on Big Brook Farm, where he had lived with his wife Erma since 1949.
Born in 1918 to Walter and Catherine Zimmerer of Nutley, Walter was the eldest of five children and soon followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather in the building of homes. After completing what he called "the college of hard knocks," he married his beloved wife, Erma in 1941.
Walter and Erma worked together to build a construction business, Mawal Construction, and proceeded to build hundreds of homes in the Cedar Grove, Bloomfield, and Montclair area throughout the 1940's.
A leisurely Sunday drive and some bad directions took them down to the shore area and the lure of a "retirement" to farming led them to a "For Sale" sign in Colts Neck. At the time, one of the largest farms in the state, Big Brook Farm consisted of five farms and 611 acres. What began as a pheasant farm with some dairy cattle, Walter soon transformed into a sweet corn and apple producing operation that provided the local A&Ps with fresh fruit and produce.
His love for animals later turned his attention to bringing Aberdeen Angus cattle to Big Brook Farm, with over six hundred head at one point, and a "Historic Herd" award from the National Cattlemen's Association in 1983.
Not one to stay "retired" for long with a successful farming operation, Walter soon turned back to his original career of home builder. In partnership with his wife, Erma, and son, Walter R. Zimmerer, he began to make his mark locally by building more than 1,400 single family homes in Colts Neck and Holmdel, a record for housing construction in Colts Neck.
Walter and his son made attention to detail part of their business model and took great pride in building a quality home. Walter particularly enjoyed working the bulldozers and getting down in the mud, later pointing out that he had a right to be tired. Recognizing the need for more stringent zoning laws in Colts Neck (then Atlantic Township), Walter was a forerunner and advocate for one-acre minimum zoning, serving on the Colts Neck Board of Adjustment.
He, along with others, was also instrumental in changing the name of Atlantic Township to Colts Neck, which had a positive effect on the town and helped shape the character of the pastoral town to this day.
In 1972, Walter shifted the family business, now called Walter Zimmerer & Son, toward the construction and remodeling of office buildings in Red Bank. Walter's legacy continues to the present with Red Bank Corporate Center. In between the building business and full-time farming, Walter always found time to give back. He was a trustee of St. Mary's Church in Colts Neck and was very active in the early days of the church on Heyers' Mill Road, including the moving of the church to its current location. Walter even built the parish house that stands there today, as well as the parish house at St. Catharine's in Holmdel. Walter also served on the Board of Directors of Central Jersey Bank & Trust.
Walter's success in business paled in comparison to the love he felt for his beloved wife, Erma, who predeceased him in 2006, only days after celebrating their 65th Anniversary. Nothing brought more joy to his face than when he looked at his bride and recited "Love Sweet Love" to her. "Pop," as he was called, will be remembered as an inspiration to a productive life well lived with a loving wife and family, a sense of humor and a no nonsense attitude to wasting time.
Walter is predeceased by his beloved wife, Erma and is survived by his three children: his son, Walter R. Zimmerer of Colts Neck; his daughter, Mary Ann Graves and her husband Donald of Middletown, CA; and his daughter, Carol Ward and her husband, Clifford of San Diego, CA. "Pop" was the loving grandfather of 10 and dear great-grandfather of 15.
Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21 at John E. Day Funeral Home, 85 Riverside Ave., Red Bank. A Mass of Christian Burial will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 22 at St. Mary's R.C. Church, Colts Neck, with interment immediately following at St. Gabriels Cemetery, Marlboro. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Mary's Church, Colts Neck.