ROXBURY, N.J. — Jean Mulch still chokes up a little when talking about the June 24 accident that took the life of her husband, Curtis, as he piloted a weed harvesting machine on Lake Hopatcong.
That’s to be expected. The Mulches were married for 44 years.
What wasn’t expected, at least by Jean Mulch, was the outpouring of love, sympathy and support that came her way as soon as word spread about the incident and.
“Within hours they just started coming to my house,” said Mulch, who has worked as a secretary at Nixon School for about 15 years. “There were so many that came to the house, we had to turn them away. I was so overwhelmed at that point.”
The well-wishers came bearing not only kind words but also gifts, provisions and offers to help in any way possible.
“The entire Nixon staff, and a lot of the families in the community, came out and brought food and flowers,” she said. “It’s like they couldn’t do enough ... Students wrote letters to me. Parents started dropping food off. Anything I needed, and they were there. It was just amazing.”
The Kindness Keeps Coming
Mulch said she was stunned by the number of people who came to her husband’s funeral. “I can’t believe how many past parents came; people who don’t even have kids in Nixon School anymore,” she said. “Some of these parents, their kids have graduated from high school.”
She said she is still receiving cards from parents and students. And she wants everybody to know how much she appreciates the kindness.
The Roxbury Mayor and Council voted this month to erect a plaque, in honor of Curtis Mulch, on the Lake Hopatcong shoreline.
Mulch said she finds it “upsetting” that she still doesn’t know what caused the weed harvester to sink. The incident remains under investigation.
“I still don’t know what happened,” Mulch said. “First I heard it overturned, and he got caught in the cage. Then I heard he was off-loading the weeds and his cable snapped.”
She does know her husband died doing what he loved. The 68-year-old former owner of a service station worked for the state Department of Environmental Protection Division of Parks and Forestry. He’d operated the weed machine for about 12 years.
"He always needed to tinker with something, and when they started with the weed harvesters he latched right onto that," she said.
Mulch loves her job too. In fact, she returned to it this week.
“It’s probably the best thing I did,” Mulch said. “It’s hard to be home … There are no students here now. I’m doing the orders the teachers put through for supplies. I’m answering phone calls. I just want the community to know how much I appreciate everything they do.”
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