SCOTCH PLAINS-FANWOOD, NJ -- Union County Sheriff Ralph G. Froehlich passed away late last night on Sunday, July 20, 2014.
First elected in 1977, Sheriff Froehlich, 83, was the longest-serving sheriff in New Jersey history. He was serving in his 13th term. Born and raised in Elizabeth, he graduated from St. Mary’s High School in 1949 and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1951. Ralph Froehlich served as an infantryman and drill instructor until he was honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant in 1959.
A career law enforcement officer, Sheriff Froehlich was a member of the Elizabeth Police Department for almost 20 years attaining the rank of Lieutenant. He held the positions of Commander of the Community Relations Unit, the Tactical Squad Unit, the Training Unit and Field Supervisor of the Patrol Division. He received numerous commendations, including the New Jersey PBA Valor Award, Policeman of the Year, and the Elizabeth Police Merit Awards.
"I am saddened by the passing of Sheriff Froehlich, a champion of law enforcement and public safety whose influence touched all of us in Fanwood and across Union County,” said Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr. “His leadership in the ongoing struggle to reduce gun violence by supporting Mayors Against Illegal Guns was an inspiration to me and many others. He will be greatly missed."
As Sheriff, he instituted a nationally recognized fingerprinting program for children and he established the Missing Persons Unit and Domestic Violence Unit as well as the K-9 Search and Rescue Unit. Sheriff Froehlich also developed and published the “Play It Safe” booklet for children, as well as the “You Are Not Alone” booklet for victims of domestic violence. He implemented several gun safety programs for children and teens and each summer hosted a Youth Academy for students to acquire firsthand knowledge about law enforcement. His monthly “Union County’s Most Wanted” cable TV show, a first in the state, was instrumental in the apprehension of over 80 murderers and other felons. He also assisted with a state-sponsored gun buy-back program for county residents.
A 1975 graduate of Kean College, Sheriff Froehlich was a member of the Governor’s Commission on Terrorism. In 1990, he was invited to China as part of an Ambassador Program to evaluate and compare the judicial systems of Union County and China.
"Sheriff Froehlich will be deeply missed by all who knew him,” said Union County Chairman Christopher Hudak on behalf of the Freeholder Board. “He truly embodied the very best in public service. He was a role model to all of us for his highest standards of professionalism, his constant search for new ways to innovate and improve, and above all for his compassion. His heart always had room for everyone he encountered, and he will always hold a place in our hearts as well.”
A loving and dedicated husband, father and grandfather, the Sheriff is survived by his beloved wife of 20 years, Marlene; two children, Debra Kurzawski, her husband Mike, and son Michael Costa of Clark, and Lora Froehlich and daughter Renee Garcia of Roselle Park. He is also survived by Marlene’s children, Darla Rogers, her husband Ken, and children Trent and Reese Levitt of Ringoes; Robert Coon, his wife Pam, and children Ryan, Kasey and Aiden; Frank Coon and Christopher Coon. He was also the father of the late Renee Hagen. He will be missed by extended family and his many friends.