Congressman James R. Grover at a LIMBA meeting at MacArthur...

Congressman James R. Grover at a LIMBA meeting at MacArthur Airport. (July 26, 1974) Credit: George Argeroplos

James Russell Grover Jr., a former Republican congressman who dedicated much of his life to public service and protecting Fire Island, died Sunday at his Babylon home from congestive heart failure. He was 93.

Grover served in the House from 1963 to 1975, after spending five years in the New York State Assembly.

"In Washington, his moniker was 'Gentleman Jim,' " said his son James Robert Grover of West Islip.

He said his father was proud of the work he did with Rep. Otis Pike (D-Riverhead) to help establish the Fire Island National Seashore in 1964.

Babylon Town Supervisor Richard Schaffer, the Suffolk Democratic chairman, called Grover a "true gentleman who defined what public service is all about."

Schaffer said he got to know Grover during volunteer work at the local Red Cross, calling him "a community-minded person, always willing to help a cause or individual."

State Sen. Owen Johnson (R-West Babylon) said Grover mentored him early in his political career.

"Jim was a wonderful family man, a legendary statesman, a capable and competent lawyer, a remarkable sailor and a man I was proud to call my friend," Johnson said.

Grover was born and raised in Babylon, where his father once served as village police chief. In 1941, Grover graduated from Hofstra College.

During World War II, he served as an intelligence officer in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific Theater, rising to the rank of captain.

While stationed in China at a small air base, Grover helped shoot down a Japanese fighter with small arms, his son said. "He cut a star of metal out of it and it went atop our Christmas tree for years."

After the war, Grover attended Columbia University School of Law, graduating in 1949. His political career ended in the wake of the Watergate scandal, when he was unseated by Democrat Thomas Downey. Grover later returned to practicing law in Babylon.

As a Fire Island Preservation Society founder, he accomplished the goal of having the lighthouse restored. He was also active in the Red Cross, St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Babylon and the Babylon Yacht Club.

Besides his son, he is survived his wife of 69 years, Mary; daughters Nancy de Chatrette, of Wilton, Conn., Jean Hand, of Brightwaters, and Jill Hoyler, of West Islip; eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Following Mass at the church Thursday, burial was at St. Joseph's Cemetery.

With Rick Brand

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