UNION COUNTY, NJ - It is with great sorrow that the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders announces the passing of Union County Sheriff Ralph G. Froehlich late last night on Sunday, July 20. The longest-serving sheriff in New Jersey history, Sheriff Froehlich was noted for his passion to serve, exemplified by his work with children, youths, and seniors. He had held the office of Sheriff since first elected in 1977.
“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.”
In a joint statement, Undersheriffs, Joseph Cryan, Vincent De Trolio, and Gerald Green, Jr. said, “There are a lot of tears and sadness in our office today, from all of us who had the opportunity to work for such a great man. On behalf of our office, we will miss him greatly, and all of us were honored to work with him.”
Sheriff Ralph Froehlich of Union, 83, entered into eternal rest on Monday, July 21, 2014 after a brief illness.
Sheriff Froehlich was born and raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He attended local schools and graduated from St. Mary’s High School in 1949.
He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1951 and served as an infantryman, member of an amphibious tractor crew and drill instructor until his release from active duty. He continued in the active reserves until his release in 1959 when he was honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant.
A career law enforcement officer, he was a member of the Elizabeth Police Department for almost twenty 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.
A 1975 graduate of Kean College, he attended the Northwestern University Traffic Institute in 1968 and was a member of Pi Sigma Alpha, the National Political Honor Society. He was a former member of Adjunct Faculty at Kean University and Union College. He was a member of the Governor’s Commission on Terrorism and trained at the New Mexico Tech for Response to Terrorist Bombings. 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.
He was first elected Sheriff of Union County in 1977, having previously won a seat on the City Council in Elizabeth in 1976.
He was in his thirteenth term as Union County Sheriff when he passed away. He held the distinction of being the longest-serving County Sheriff in New Jersey history.
During his tenure as Sheriff, he instituted a nationally recognized fingerprinting program for children and an automated photography laboratory, and he established the Missing Persons Unit and Domestic Violence Unit as well as the K-9 Search and Rescue Unit.
Sheriff Froehlich 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 including three educational videos available in schools throughout Union County. The Sheriff also assisted with a state-sponsored gun buyback program for Union County residents.
Each summer, Sheriff Froehlich hosted the Union County Sheriff’s Youth Academy for students to acquire firsthand knowledge about law enforcement. He was the first New Jersey sheriff to broadcast a monthly “Union County’s Most Wanted” Suburban Crime Watch cable television show, which was instrumental in the apprehension of over eighty wanted murderers and other felons from Union County.
Sheriff Froehlich launched the Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program (SLAP), an alternative to incarceration for non-violent offenders. The program has saved millions of dollars in labor hours and costs of incarceration. He also implemented the Municipal Transportation Program, assisting local police departments in the transport of prisoners to and from jail, which enabled local officers to remain in their communities.
Active in his profession, Sheriff Froehlich was past President of the National Jail Managers Association and served four terms as President of the New Jersey Sheriffs’ Association. He served as President of the New Jersey Constitutional Officers Association and was a member of the Sheriff/Judicial Liaison Court Security Committee. He was a Board member of the Salvation Army and Urban League. He received six national awards for administrative leadership and was the recipient of numerous humanitarian and law enforcement awards.
Sheriff Froehlich was an avid gardener for most of his life, which was reflected by his flourishing vegetable garden and vast varieties of plants and flowers. He so loved his gardening, he was referred to as “Farmer Froehlich” by his wife, Marlene.
A loving and dedicated husband, father and grandfather, the Sheriff is survived by his beloved wife of twenty 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.
Sheriff Froehlich’s life-long passion and commitment was that of service to others. His upbeat and magnetic personality and enthusiasm will be missed by all who had the pleasure and honor of meeting him.