TOTOWA, N.J. -- Lifetime Totowa resident and longtime Totowa principal Eugene "Gene" A. Ridgeway died on Sunday, Jan. 22. He was 75.
"It's a small community and you get to know people, and I think he was one of those people that people appreciated," Dr. Viktor Joganow told Daily Voice. He's a former superintendent for Pascack Valley High School, and he worked with Ridgeway in a few different roles.
Born in Paterson, Ridgeway was a Coast Guard veteran. He became a teacher, a guidance counselor, then a principal, ultimately for both Memorial and Washington Park schools, in Totowa.
"Gene was a longtime educator in the Totowa school system," Joganow said. They first worked together when Joganow was superintendent in the Totowa School District and Ridgeway was a guidance counselor at Memorial School. Shortly thereafter, Joganow recommended him as a principal for the middle school and the board agreed.
"I always found him to be a real supporter of youngsters in the district," Joganow said. "He promoted a variety of academic programs and extracurricular activities. And his wife was a kindergarten teacher in the district. They were really a family of educators."
The pair also worked together later, when they were on Passaic Valley Regional High School District Board of Education together.
"He was an outstanding board member," Joganow added.
Ridgeway then became an adjunct professor at William Paterson University. Joganow -- who also became Ridgeway's colleague there, as a fellow adjunct professor -- said that Ridgeway guided student teachers, as they made the transition into teaching.
Ridgeway was a parishioner of Our Lady of Pompeii Church, in Paterson. He was also a volunteer firefighter and former captain and ex-chief of the Totowa Fire Department, and he was a trustee and treasurer for the Riverview Park Fire Company. He also worked with the North Jersey Relief Association.
He was an avid fisherman, was a New York Yankees and Giants fan, and he enjoyed his vegetable garden and traveling.
Ridgeway is survived by his wife of 50 years, Barbara (Kay) Ridgeway of Totowa; children Kimberly Armellino and her husband John of Marlton, and Pamela Niglio and her husband David of Marlton; and grandchildren Aiden and Katie Armellino, and Kelsey and Megan Niglio.
Joganow said Ridgewood's wake was well-attended, by former students, teachers and other colleagues, as well as members of local police and fire departments.
The mass was held Wednesday evening, Jan. 25, at the Festa Memorial Funeral Home, in Totowa. The funeral was Thursday morning at the funeral home, followed by a mass at Our Lady of Pompeii Church, in Paterson. Entombment is in the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery and Mausoleum, in Totowa.
Memorial donations can be made to
- St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, by clicking here, or by mail to P.O. Box 1893, Memphis, TN 38101-9950, using this form;
- the American Cancer Society, Northern New Jersey Region, by clicking here, or by mail to 20 Mercer St., Hackensack, NJ 07601; or
- the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, by clicking here.