Poet. Most remembered for his 1913 poem "Trees," he was educated at Rutgers College and was a graduate of Columbia University in 1908. He had a brief career as a teacher before he moved on to his vocation of journalism. From 1909 to 1912, he worked on the staff of "The Standard Dictionary" (a division of the Funk and Wagnalls Publishing Company) in New York City, and became a special writer for the "New York Times Sunday Magazine." He enjoyed writing poetry, essays, and critical reviews of other poets, and was a frequent contributor to various magazines. He lived most of his life in Mahwah, New Jersey, in a house on top of a wooded hill, and often used his bedroom as a part time office. Raised in the Anglican Church, he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1913. In August 1913, the magazine "Poetry" published his work "Trees" which became his most famous poem, which in turn was published in his 1914 book "Trees and Other Poems." He dedicated the book to his mother. When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, he enlisted at age 30 in the United States Army, and quickly rose to the rank of Sergeant in the 69th Volunteer Infantry Regiment (later redesignated the 165th Infantry Regiment) of the 42nd Infantry Division (Rainbow Division). Originally assigned as the Regimental Statistician, he became an observer in the Regimental Intelligence Section, gathering information about the enemy. This required him to participate in numerous patrols deep into enemy territory. On July 30, 1918, during the battle of Ourcq, France (of the Second Battle of the Marne), he attached himself as adjutant to Major William "Wild Bill" Donovan, who commanded the First Battalion, as Donovan's aide had been killed the day before. He was killed at the Muercy Farm in France later that day when a German sniper shot him. He was posthumously awarded the French Croix de Guerre (Cross of War) for his valor. His poem, "When the Sixty-Ninth Comes Back" was set to music by composer Victor Herbert and played by the Regimental Band during their return triumphal march up 5th Avenue in New York City in 1919. Interred with his comrades in the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery, Fere-en-Tardenois, France, his family erected a cenotaph for him in their plot in Elmwood Cemetery, New Brunswick, New Jersey. In 1993, his son, Kenton Kilmer, wrote a book about his father, entitled "Memories of my Father, Joyce Kilmer."
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson