NORTH WILDWOOD, N.J. -- "All of the guys who are in North Wildwood right now can tell you the same story," said Joseph Duncan. "They walk down the beach and they see people that they have known for 30 years, or 40 years, or in my case, 50 years and their grandchildren are now eating my ice cream."
Duncan, originally from Southwest Philadelphia, fell in love with North Wildwood as a teenager. The United States Marine Corps veteran decided to permanently move to the Jersey Shore town where he would meet his wife and become a "Fudgy Wudgy" man.
"When I first heard about this job, I was told that if you live here and you are a veteran, then you're eligible to apply for one of these licenses," he said. "And that excited me because I always thought it was a cool job."
It wasn't just cool because of the ice cream. Over the years, Duncan, who is better known as "Unk Dunk," found something more valuable than dollars on the beach.
"I found a great deal of joy being out here and meeting people and talking with them," he said.
It was a perfect summer gig for the now-retired school teacher. In fact, not even a recent heart attack would stop him from completing his 50th and final year selling ice cream on the beach.
"We're all happy that the city allowed us to be here," said Duncan. "And we hope that they continue to allow veterans to come in and replace us."
Beachgoers between 17th and 20th Streets in North Wildwood were likewise happy to see Unk Dunk pushing the ice cream cart today.
"When I hear that voice, it just really brings back all the memories from when I was a kid," said Mary Ellen Shaw, who has been coming to the beach since the early 1970s.
Others hope that North Wildwood will continue the tradition after the remaining few veterans have retired.
"I really appreciate the vets doing this. I hope they stay doing this," said local resident Mike Coady. "North Wildwood deserves them and they deserve North Wildwood."
Joseph Duncan will officially hang up his "Unk Dunk" shirt this coming Labor Day. He looks forward to moving down to Florida with his wife so they can be closer to his two sons.