Thomas J. Santarsiero, 92

By on August 31, 2018

Thomas J. Santarsiero, 92, of Lower Makefield Twp., Pa., formerly of Verona, passed away peacefully on August 29, 2018.

Mr. Santarsiero, together with his late wife and young son moved to Verona in mid-1958, prior to the birth of his daughter in January of 1959. In need of more space after the birth of his second son in February, 1965, he and the family moved again, within the township, in January of 1966, to Crest Hill Road. He resided there until October, 2017, when failing abilities brought on by a stroke several years earlier, necessitated a move to an assisted living facility in Bucks County.

Mr. Santarsiero, who was born and raised in Newark, had been a teacher at Parsippany High School from 1958 until his retirement in June, 1992. There, he was the student affairs coordinator, and taught chemistry, biology and earth sciences, while holding the position of area chairman of the science department. During his tenure, he also coached the varsity tennis team and was president of the district’s teachers’ association where he negotiated several teachers’ contracts with the local board of education. For a number of years, he also set up and directed the summer school program for the entire Parsippany school district.

Prior to teaching in Parsippany, he taught in the Belleville public schools which itself followed a career in pharmaceutical sales for the former White Laboratories of Kenilworth.

Mr. Santarsiero was a combat infantry veteran of the United States Army in World War II. He had volunteered for service at age 17 upon graduating from Barringer High School in Newark. After basic training at Ft. Dix, the Army sent him to study at Princeton University for a semester. But the needs of manpower in Europe were great in the winter and spring of 1944, and now, at 18, he was transported on the Queen Mary, together with thousands of others, to Great Britain where he trained in Scotland and England for the eventual campaign on the European Continent.

Mr. Santarsiero arrived in France about a month after the invasion at Normandy and participated in the liberation of Paris in August of 1944. In December of 1944 and into January, 1945, as part of Gen. George Patton’s Third Army, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He often remarked that his clothing was wet from the fall to the spring during that time. Later, near the end of the war in Europe, he played a part in the liberation of a German concentration camp, the memories of which he did not reveal until many decades later, and even then, in a cursory fashion. As was the case with many of his comrades-in-arms, members of the so-called Greatest Generation, his view was such that fighting in World war II was a job that they needed to do; there was no glory in it, and once that task was successfully completed, all they wanted to do was return home and resume their lives. And that he did.

Upon his return, Mr. Santarsiero attended and graduated from St. Peter’s College, now University, in Jersey City with a degree in biology. Concurrent with his college studies, he also worked in his father’s electrical contracting business. In the early 1960s, he returned to school at night, pursuing a master’s degree in secondary school administration at Seton Hall University which he was awarded in 1964. Subsequent to that, he attained an additional 30 credits of study in the same field.

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But with all the degrees and years of additional study, his modest teacher’s salary in those days was never enough to provide for his family and, by necessity, a second job was always on his plate. Despite that, he loved teaching. He loved being a positive influence in the lives of hundreds of young people throughout his career. He especially liked having the chance to teach the sons and daughters of his former students.

Teaching and science were not the only interests he held. In the early 1950s, prior to his marriage, he was a member of several summer stock acting companies in Michigan performing in any number of productions. In the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, he acted on the stages of several community theater groups throughout Essex County. And, after college, he played shortstop for several seasons on a semi-pro baseball team in Newark.

Later in life, after the untimely passing of his beloved wife, Nancy, Mr. Santarsiero took up skiing and bike riding, the former of which he continued doing into his mid-eighties. It was in this period that he met and began a loving relationship with his companion, Rose Del Presto. Together, and with friends and family, they traveled a great deal and lived a good and happy life.

After his retirement, he skied and biked a number of times in Europe. But skiing, with his late buddy, Tom Ciccone, for two weeks every January in Lake Tahoe was his favorite. He also relished his twice-weekly date for coffee and bialys with his “third son,” neighbor James Cole.

Mr. Santarsiero became an avid reader, at times devouring two or three books a week. He was always restless and sought to embark on a new hobby, or master a new avocation. He tried his hand at painting; he partnered with a retired acquaintance in building and selling decoratively painted furniture; he built, and decoratively painted, his own line of animal-themed children’s furniture; and he taught himself Italian to put to use on his many trips to the country of his father’s origin.

He was also a member of the Montclair YMCA for many years, working out three mornings a week. Gregarious and out-going by nature, he made many friends at “the Y.” He was also actively involved in the Barringer High School Alumni Association and held the post of treasurer for several years.

But beyond all of the activities and experiences of Mr. Santarsiero’s life, the experience of being a grandfather, or “Papa,” was surely the most important and deeply felt he could ever have. He gloried in the birth, growth and development of his five grandchildren and would do any and everything for them. Their pictures, their artwork, and their achievements covered the walls of his home. Their lives animated him in ways that nothing else could, and his life in turn, animated theirs.

Mr. Santarsiero’s was a life of longevity and of a life well-led. It was a life filled with seriousness and humor where bad jokes reigned supreme; of stories of the Great Depression and of how an extended but close-knit family endured through those years; of stories of the darkness of war and of the joy of a peace thereafter that made possible a loving family. He was a patriot that believed in the promise of America, having witnessed the rise of his own immigrant forebears and their ability to transcend the prejudices they faced. He believed, and participated in the power of organized labor to create and strengthen a middle class and taught his children to honor the picket lines of working people. He believed in hard work, necessary to support one’s family, but to also provide the fruits and benefits enabling one to enjoy life. He held a deep belief in his Catholic faith, many times separate and at odds with the hierarchical organization constructed around it. His was a life based upon doing what was right, placing himself second, and doing for others, no matter whom they might be, close friend or stranger. It was a life of service in the name of something grander than oneself. It was a life that thus touched and had an enduring impact on the lives of so many others. He imparted that approach to life unto his children and grandchildren, not always by word, but by example. And that approach to life is what yields a life well-led.

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Mr. Santarsiero was pre-deceased by his parents, V. William and Julia (nee Mattia) Santarsiero of Newark; his wife Elizabeth Ann “Nancy” (nee Myers); his sister Winifred Corbacho; and his closest of many cousins, who was like a brother, Benny Abruzzo.

He is survived by his son Thomas W. of West Caldwell and his former wife Karen Monaco of Chesterfield, N.J.; his daughter Cynthia A. (Sissy) Santarsiero and her wife Traci Campbell of Austin, Texas; his son Steven J. and his wife Ronni Fuchs of Lower Makefield, Twp.; and by his loving companion of more than 30-years, Rose Del Presto of Essex Fells, and her children, Peter (Nancy), Maria Del Presto, and Flora Feitel (Tom). He is also survived by his most dear and beloved grandchildren: Victoria E. Santarsiero of Queens, N.Y.; Antonia K. Santarsiero of Chesterfield; Nancy G. Santarsiero, William L. Santarsiero and John A. Santarsiero, all of Lower Makefield; by Rose’s grandchildren; and by his niece, Francesca Corbacho of Modena, N.Y., along with many cousins, friends, longtime-neighbors, and former colleagues.

Mr. Santarsiero’s family would like to express their gratitude and thanks to Lola Arteaga, his caregiver at home for 2-1/2 years. And, as well, to the many aides and caregivers at Sunrise of Lower Makefield, and the nurses and aides at Greenwood House and Greenwood House Hospice in Ewing, N.J., who provided kind and invaluable assistance in his final days.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in his name to the Verona Rescue Squad, 12 Church St., Verona, NJ 07044, would be most appreciated.

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