What did the New York Times Sunday Magazine and the Funk and Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary have in common with some of our early Johnson & Johnson publications? Hint: they shared a famous writer.
That writer was Joyce Kilmer, who is best known for his poem “Trees.” Joyce was the son of Johnson & Johnson scientific director Fred Kilmer. Joyce (full name: Alfred Joyce Kilmer) was born in New Brunswick in 1886, the same year Johnson & Johnson was founded. He was three years old when his father joined the Company, so like the children of Robert Wood Johnson the first, Joyce Kilmer grew up with Johnson & Johnson. The Kilmer family had four children but tragically had lost three of them, which made them cherish their remaining child, Joyce, even more. Joyce went to school at Rutgers Prep, where he was seven years ahead of Robert Wood Johnson (later to be known as General Johnson). Joyce then attended Rutgers College for two years and completed his education at Columbia University, graduating in 1908. He married a local girl from Metuchen, Aline Murray, who was also an accomplished poet and writer. Joyce Kilmer’s abilities were inherited from both parents, and he grew up watching his father Fred Kilmer write countless scientific articles and publications on behalf of Johnson & Johnson. After his graduation, Joyce made his living as a writer and editor. During that time, he helped his father by contributing articles to some Johnson & Johnson publications, such as the RED CROSS NOTES.
Like Seward Johnson, Joyce Kilmer served in World War I. He was assigned to the “Fighting 69th” Infantry Regiment and then to the 165th Regiment, where he earned the rank of Sergeant. Joyce volunteered for dangerous duties and in 1918 transferred to the Regimental Intelligence Section, in which he went on scouting missions. It was on one such scouting mission in France that Joyce Kilmer was killed on July 30, 1918, in the ending days of World War I. He was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government.
Annie Kilmer Holding Photograph of Joyce Kilmer (L), and Fred Kilmer (R)
The Kilmer family – Joyce’s wife Aline, their children, and parents Fred and Annie — were devastated. At Johnson & Johnson, Fred Kilmer threw himself even further into his work while Annie Kilmer worked tirelessly to keep Joyce’s memory alive. She made numerous appearances at area schools to read his poetry and talk to students about her son. Here’s a website by Joyce’s granddaughter (and Fred Kilmer’s great-granddaughter) that has photos and more information about Joyce Kilmer.
There are numerous parks, buildings and other sites throughout New Jersey and the U.S. named after Joyce Kilmer. At Johnson & Johnson, the Kilmer name commemorates Joyce’s father, Fred Kilmer, our scientific director in the early years of the Company.
Fred Kilmer’s Signature (“F.B. Kilmer”) on a Letter from our Archives