TOTOWA, NJ - Eugene "Gene" A. Ridgeway, former Passaic Valley High School (PVHS) board member and former principal for the Totowa School District, died suddenly on Sunday. He was 75.
Born in Paterson, Ridgeway was a lifelong resident of Totowa. He was a veteran of the United State Coast Guard. He was also a volunteer firefighter, former captain and former chief of the Totowa Fire Department. He was a trustee and treasurer for the Riverview Park Fire Company. Additionally, he was with the North Jersey Relief Association.
He was the principal for Washington Park and Memorial Schools in Totowa for many years and a member of the PVHS board for well over a decade.
Ridgeway was elected as a PVHS board member in April of 2004 and he served until 2015. He was chairman of the communications committee for 12 years. Additionally, he served on the operations committee for two years (one year as chair), the public relations committee for 11 years (one year as chair), the policy committee for three years, and student welfare committee for eight years.
During the Jan 24. PVBOE meeting, Dr. JoAnn Cardillo, superintendent, held a tribute to Ridgeway, along with fellow board members.
"We lost a former board member this week, who I understand was very well loved, very well respected, and gave his life for the community, the students of Totowa, and the students of Passaic Valley High School," said Cardillo. "The Board of Education extended its appreciation to him upon leaving the board and we also want to acknowledge that we give our condolences as a group to his family."
Dr. Viktor Joganow, former superintendent for PVHS, recalled Ridgeway's dedication.
"My first dealing with Gene was in 1990, when I became superintendent in the Totowa School District," he recalled. "He was previously a teacher who became a guidance counselor. I recommended him as a principal at Memorial School, which the board approved, and he was in that capacity for quite a few years. I always found Gene to be very passionate about the needs of our kids. He was always concerned with the welfare of our youngsters, especially with programming and curriculum. Parents found him to be a principal who cared about the needs of our children, including their needs as well, and I think they appreciated that."
Joganow also recalled the time they spent together on the PVBOE.
"It's interesting that years later, we came together again, when we were on the board at the high school, this time he was a board member, while I was superintendent," he added. "He was always interested in the welfare of the high school students, now that he was on the board. I thought he was an excellent addition to the board because of his expertise in education. He brought a wealth of knowledge to the board, relative to curriculum and programming."
Joganow further added, "I always considered Gene a friend. He was a great family man and was always talking about his grandchildren. He was a very nice man and it's very sad. His wife Barbara was a kindergarten teacher in the Totowa School District, at Washington Park School and they're just a real family of educators."
Former PVHS board member Laura Van Winkle, spent 10 years on the board with Gene.
"He was the kindest, gentlest most honest person on that board. So honest and his sense of right and wrong was unquestionable. His wife Barbara is a lovely person and they were devoted to each other and their children. Everyone that knew him just loved him," she said. "Everyone thought of him as a kind, gentle man."
Ridgeway was also an adjunct professor for William Paterson University in Wayne. He retired in 2014. He was a fan of the New York Yankees and New York Giants. He was an avid fisherman. He also enjoyed traveling and tending to his vegetable garden. He was also a parishioner of Our Lady of Pompeii R.C. Church, Paterson.
Ridgeway is survived by his wife Barbara of 50 years. He is also survived by his daughter Kimberly A. Armellino and her husband John of Marlton and his daughter Pamela J. Niglio and her husband David of Marlton. Additionally, he is survived by his grandchildren Aiden and Katie Armellino and Kelsey and Megan Niglio.
Arrangements were handled by Festa Memorial Funeral Home and service details are available at http://festamemorial.com/.