WEST ORANGE, NJ — Governor Phil Murphy remembered beloved West Orange High School Coach and teacher Joe Suriano in a broadcasted touching tribute on Sept. 18.

Suriano retired on Jan. 29, 2015 as teachers and staff lined the halls of West Orange High School. A scholarship in his name was founded in 2016 and will continue to provide funds for graduating WOHS seniors for years to come.

Suriano passed away on April 10 from complications of COVID-19. The Suriano family met last week with Murphy to share memories and information of their husband and father. On Sept. 18, Gov. Murphy gave a tribute to Suriano in his Friday broadcast:

Sign Up for Millburn/Short Hills Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

"As we do every day, let's take a couple of minutes to remember three more of the blessed New Jersey souls we have lost over the past six months. Today we begin, and I don't use the word legend lightly, but this guy by all accounts was a legend. We remember a West Orange guy through and through, the legend Joseph Joe Soriano, who was a longtime English teacher and track coach at West Orange High. That he ended up there is no mystery. Joe was a West Orange native, a State High School Track Champion in the 100 meters and an all-American in college. He started his teaching career at West Orange High in 1969 and would remain a fixture there for a few years, 46 in fact, retiring in January of 2016.

"For his commitment to his students, he was named Teacher of the Year not once or twice, but three times and as a coach, his West Orange Mountaineers Track and Field teams won a total of seven league championships, and he earned All-Area Coach of the Year honors an amazing 16 times, League Coach of the Year eight times, twice recognized as Essex County Coach of the Year. He coached five athletes who would go on to garner All-American status, and three who met Olympic Qualifying standards. For all of this, there is little wonder that the track and football field at West Orange High was dedicated as Suriano Stadium in his honor. His legacy will also live on through the Suriano family scholarship.

"When he retired, one of his colleagues said Joe was and I quote him, 'A rich man in every way it matters.' And for Joe, even more than his students, that wealth was measured in his love for his family. He leaves behind his wife of 50 years Marlene and their two daughters, Stephanie and Nicole, and I had the enormous honor on Wednesday of speaking with all three of them. My wife Tammy had sent Marlene and Nicole a note right after Joe passed a few months ago, and it was an honor for me to speak with all three. He also leaves his son-in-law, who is Nicole's husband Joseph, and he also leaves two granddaughters, Avery and Dylan. He also leaves many other extended family members, friends, and of course thousands of grateful students and student athletes. Joe was 73 years old. Thank you, Joe, for your years of dedication to the youth of West Orange. You made your hometown and all of us in this state very proud. May God bless and watch over you."