SOMERVILLE, NJ - You might not recognize him by name, but you would recognize him as the bare-chested, ginger-haired skateboarder riding down Main Street, or maybe Division Street, surfing a wave that was all his own.
That's how his former boss and friend, Rick St. Pierre remembers 37-year-old Michael Ryan Woskey, who drowned Monday in the Chimney Rock Reservoir in Bridgewater after diving into the water from a cliff and trying to swim to the other shore. Witnesses told police that while he was swimming he began to struggle; when they lost sight of him, they called 911 for help.
His body was recovered at 1:40 p.m. Tuesday.
"He was full of love and mischief; without a care in the world," St. Pierre said. "He was one of Somerville's characters."
In 2018 Woskey posted this message on his Facebook page: "I create conditions for things to happen and then I actually make them happen. Don't be mad at me for it. Just do better."
"He was creative, dynamic, a special person that touched a lot of peoples' lives; it's just such a tragic situation," said St. Pierre, owner of Verve, a popular Somerville bar and restaurant on East Main Street across the street from the Historic Somerset County Courthouse.
Woskey worked at Verve on and off from 2015-17. He was also a popular drag queen who performed in New York City going by the names of Foxy, his self-described alter-ego on his Facebook page, and later, as Lola - brash, bold, with big hair and long eyelashes.
"He was loved by the drag community and restaurant community and a person who was loved by the Verve family." St. Pierre said. "He believed in himself; it took a lot to do that, but he was a risk taker; he knew what he wanted. He was one of the guys that as a character showed his individuality at all times.
But there were times when life got in his way, according to St. Pierre.
"Being real brought him back to a world he wasn't always comfortable with," he said.
"As a gay man he was very experiential in New York circles, he had his personality as Lola and at one point Foxy and he had a little dog also known as Foxie. He was very caring, very intelligent, a giving, loving person that took risks and wanted people to acknowledge the strength of his gay characters and him as a person," St. Pierre added.
"He was one of the intimates of Verve because of his personality, how he cared for customers and how he made people feel; he cared for everybody, reached out to everybody and was very human," he said.
Woskey attended the Gill St. Bernard's School, and at various times attended the University of Washington, Raritan Valley Community College, Rutgers University and Seton Hall University where he studied to become a Physician's Assistant.
He was a resident of the Hotel Somerset not far from Verve and had been working at the ShopRite Supermarket on Davenport Street, according to St. Pierre.
Woskey had a soft spot for animals, and had been employed as a veterinary technician, according to St. Pierre.
"He had a love for life, he took challenges, risks," St. Pierre said. "He had a vision of himself as bigger than life; he thought that he could swim to the other side, and he didn't make it. He jumped into the unknown and sometimes it doesn't let you come back - another great loss in trying times."
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