BERKELEY HEIGHTS, N.J. - Family, friends and co-workers are having difficulty recovering from the tragic death of a beloved daughter, sister, aunt and friend, Valerie R. Ruscitto.  

Valerie, a resident of Basking Ridge, died at the age of 58, on Sunday, Aug. 28, from injuries sustained after being struck by a vehicle at the intersection of Plainfield Avenue and Bolton Boulevard in Berkeley Heights, on Wednesday evening, July 20. The Ruscitto family is forever grateful to the good samaritan who called 911, the Berkeley Heights Rescue Squad and to the staff at Morristown Medical Center ICU, Trauma Center and Palliative Care units.

According to her sister Marisa Ruscitto, Valerie met her aunt, Regina Barletta, at a "Beatlemania" concert in Memorial Park. She left the concert early  because she had to be at work at 6:00 a.m. the next day and was on her way back to her car when she was a struck. Her injuries were so numerous and severe she was taken to Morristown Medical Center and admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, where she stayed for almost six weeks, having never regained consciousness.  

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Marisa said one of Valerie's neighbors told her they both worked similar hours at different hospitals and would see each other when leaving for work at about 5:30 a.m. and "she told me how cheerful my sister was," even at that hour.  "That's the kind of person she was, pleasant, inviting, warm," Marisa said.

It was that warmth as well as dedication to her job that drew a "crowd" to the visitation, she said. "It was really touching that so many people from the hospital where she worked, and friends and family of ours and friends of Valerie's siblings came."  Valerie, who was intellectual and scientific, had a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Medical Technology from Rutgers, had worked as a Medical/Laboratory Technologist at Overlook for almost 30 years, Marisa said.

An avid New York Rangers fan, she was always ready to go to a game at the Garden and, when baseball season came, she would cheer for the Mets, her sister said. She was also an avid reader, loved traveling and animals.  

Valerie was short -- there is no way around that -- she was four-feet six-inches tall and perfectly proportioned, and normal in every way, said her sister, who was quite perplexed that she was described as a "special needs" person in more than one post on the Berkeley Heights Community Forum.  "We just watched a four-feet, eight-inches tall gymnast win a bunch of gold medals," Marisa said.  

Those posts don't seem to exist any more, which is more perplexing. "It was upsetting to read it. I don't know how or why the rumor started," she said. While Valerie needed a step stool to reach things from many of the shelves in her kitchen, that doesn't count as a special need, her sister said.

Valerie "loved hot beverages," and, if she knew Marisa was home she would often stop by her sister's home for a cappuccino from "my fancy espresso machine," said Marisa.

Valerie was the oldest of seven children and 10 years older than Marisa, but they were good friends. "We always stayed close," said Marisa. 

Marisa gave the eulogy for Valerie, below are excerpts from her eulogy.  It is reproduced in full and can be seen on the  Paul Ippolito Berkeley Memorial website, along with notes from relatives and friends here

"We gathered today in memory of our sister, Valerie, to acknowledge and share both our joy in the gift that her life brought to us, and the deep sorrow and the great loss that her tragic passing brings. In sharing the joy and the sorrow together today, may we lessen the pain and more prominently remember the joy.
"Valerie, the eldest sister in our family of 7 children, was always cheerful and happy and she spread that cheer to those around her. She was truly special; a wonderful and good natured person down to the core. Val is the most forgiving person I have ever known. Growing up I remember the fights my two older sisters would have and Val was always so quick to forgive and forget. Val would do anything for anyone and was always so very helpful. Val was also great at documenting family functions by taking lots of pictures, most were of her nieces and nephews all of whom she truly adored. 

"Yesterday at the wake I had the pleasure of meeting so many of Valerie's coworkers. It was rewarding to hear about that part of her life. I enjoyed hearing the stories about my sister including how she was always on time for work at 6 a.m.

"... One of Val's special talents was that she could read a book and watch tv at the same time. This always amazed me, it's no wonder she often ignored me when I called her name. She was also super-passionate about New York Rangers hockey and New York Mets baseball.

"Val loved to travel and did so often with her best friends Julie and Kathy ... These three went everywhere! ...  London, Paris, Disney, Alaska, Scotland, New Orleans, Key West, San Francisco, that's just a small sampling. They also went to many Broadway shows and every year visited the tree in Rockefeller Center. 

"During the holidays Val would always help me prepare, she had so much patience for me and my perfectionism, God Bless Val. I don't know how I'll manage to do it all without her. She was my sous chef and if she wasn't helping with cooking or baking she would sweep my floor several times and clean the mess from these massive projects which we carried out in order to preserve our family traditions."

A visitation was held on Wednesday, Aug. 31, at Paul Ippolito Berkeley Memorial, 646 Springfield Ave. and the funeral mass was offered on Thursday, Sept. 1 at the Shrine of St. Joseph, 1050 Long Hill Road, Stirling. Interment followed at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, East Hanover.

She is survived by her loving father Frank Ruscitto and her dear siblings: Frank, Mark, Marisa and Anthony (Jennifer) Ruscitto. She was also survived by her godson Angelo Ruscitto and her other nieces and nephews: Alex and Zoila Ruscitto and Vanessa Allen.  Valerie was predeceased by her mother Irene Ruscitto and siblings: Cynthia Allen and John Ruscitto.