Stephen Alan Decter
Stephen A. Decter died on September 5, 2017, in Capital Health Regional Medical Center after suffering a sudden hemorrhagic stroke. Born in Newark, New Jersey, on June 21, 1937, the son of Rose Jacobson Decter and William Decter, he was pleased to have reached the age of 80 years.
Steve was a loyal lifetime resident of New Jersey, growing up in Maplewood, attending Columbia High School. He received his AB from Princeton University School of Public and International Affairs in 1959; and an MA in political science from the University of Pennsylvania in 1962, preparing for a lifetime of service in government and public policy.
Steve moved to West Windsor Township in 1977. He became involved in local politics as a Democrat and was twice elected to the Township Committee from 1983 to 1988. He served as mayor in 1987. During his time on the Township Committee, he focused on planning and development issues as the Township was undergoing rapid growth. As a member of the planning board, he would joke about the applicants’ teams of attorneys and developers arriving for the then weekly meetings in their stretch limousines.
He championed the expansion of Township services to accommodate a growing population including the building of a new senior center, zoning for a variety of housing, and purchasing land for a much-needed central community park. In an effort to create a downtown in the former farming community, he led a study of Princeton Junction with the hope of designing a commercial and service center around the train station while coping with the major Route 571 thoroughfare.
After leaving the committee, he continued in Township service as an advocate for a workable affordable housing plan and chaired the Growth Management Study Committee. He later returned to the planning board as a voting member.
Steve served as an academic administrator and researcher at Rutgers University in New Brunswick for 31 years. At his retirement in 1999, he was the senior associate director of the ecopolicy center of Cook College and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. Previously, he was a research associate at the University’s Center for Government Studies, formerly the Bureau of Government Research.
Steve was genuinely committed to making the state a better place, contributing through his work at Rutgers. His commitment to service to the state was an outstanding example of what a land-grant university aspires to provide. His research interests encompassed many areas, and he contributed numerous useful publications that included studies of the future of agriculture in New Jersey; environment and natural resource use, water and solid waste management; land use planning and management with a focus on farmland preservation, transfer of development rights, and growth management; housing and affordable housing policy; regional planning and development, especially the Hackensack Meadowlands Development and Redevelopment Act.
He developed and taught courses in the Rutgers departments of environmental resources, ecology, evolution and natural resources, and political science. He also had considerable experience as a practitioner hosting numerous meetings and workshops and serving as a consultant to New Jersey State government departments of agriculture, environmental protection, community affairs, and the State Legislature, as well as county and municipal governments.
Steve found true pleasure in physical activity. He said it kept him calm and focused. He enjoyed a serious and vigorous game of tennis anytime. During the summer he swam 40 laps to the mile at Broadmead Swim Club. He bicycled, ran, and in recent years, took many active-adventure vacations to national parks, New England, California, Europe, and Belize.
His home was part of a very special community. Glen Acres was established in 1958 as a deliberately integrated neighborhood, allowing African American families to purchase homes during the era of red-lining, and residents still share a special bond of caring and support for each other as many still reside in their original homes. He was a regular host of the many parties and picnics and helped organize special events such as the 40th and 50th anniversary celebrations. His neighbors remember him as a generous and caring person interested in them, their children, and grandchildren.
Steve never married. He was predeceased by his brother Philip and his nephew Andrew, and is survived by his sister-in-law Alice, his niece Lori Yaspan and husband Richard, and four grand nieces and nephews. He is remembered fondly by his longtime friend and travel companion Susan Stanbury.
Per his wishes, Steve was cremated under the direction of the Kimble Funeral Home.
Steve’s life will be celebrated with a memorial service and reception on Sunday, November 19 at 2 p.m. at Palmer House, 1 Bayard Lane, Princeton, at the corner of Route 206 and Nassau Street.
Contributions in his name may be made to the ALS Association in memory of Andy Decter at www.alsa.org.