BRIDGEWATER, NJ -- Somerset Patriots Chairman Emeritus, and chairman and CEO of Flemington Car & Truck Country, Steve Kalafer died of cancer Wednesday.
"I was absolutely shocked and saddened today to hear about the passing of Steve Kalafer," Bridgewater Mayor Matthew Moench said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. "Steve has left an indelible mark on Bridgewater Township over his accomplished life, not only with his various business endeavors, but with his contributions to and philanthropy on behalf of this community."
Kalafer was an entrepreneur, businessman, film producer and philanthropist. In 1973, he entered the automotive industry, and built one of the most respected and successful franchises in the United States, with more than 16 brands that span eight locations.
Kalafer was the chairman and founder of Princeton/American Communications and the Healthcare Information Network, which produced and broadcasted more than 600 hours of health care educational programming to 400 hospitals throughout the United States.
In addition, Kalafer was the chairman and founding investor of Pharmagistics in Somerset, and the founding investor of RVA Consulting, LLC.
In Bridgewater, Kalafer was one of the founding directors of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball and founding chairman of the Somerset Patriots.
"Steve and his family, through their hard work and determination, built a successful minor league baseball franchise that has been home to great memories and moments for so many families in Bridgewater and beyond," Moench said. "When it was announced that the Somerset Patriots would be the new home for the AA affiliate of the New York Yankees, it was clear to see the joy and elation in his face and demeanor as he knew how much this would mean to the community he cared so much about."
In addition to his entrepreneurial and sports work, Kalafer was a producer of documentary films, which garnered him three Academy Award nominations and several awards at the Sundance Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival, among others.
In his philanthropy work, Kalafer was a former member of the New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission, co-chair of the Chairman's Council of the Actors Fund of America and chairman emeritus of the Somerset Healthcare Foundation, among much more philanthropic work.
He was awarded the Actors Fund of America Medal of Honor in April 2013, and inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame Class of 2019-2020.
Somerset County Board of Commissioners Director Shanel Robinson said Kalafer was a vital member of the Somerset County community for decades as a businessman, an advocate for health care and the arts and a generous benefactor and friend.
"I've been honored to know and work with Steve for many years, especially during my three years as a Somerset County commissioner," she said. "Over the incredibly difficult past 13 months, Steve has been vital to so many people by ensuring that our food banks were filled during the holidays, pushing for advanced medical services at RWJ Somerset and even entertaining us with baseball during the height of the COVID pandemic after the Patriots season was canceled."
Representatives from the Somerset Patriots said there will be a celebration of Kalafer's life at the ballpark, in Bridgewater, at a later date.
"We are completely heartbroken by Steve's passing," Somerset Patriots President and General Manager Patrick McVerry said in a release. "Everyone who ever came into contact with him over the years knows just how special a person he was. He built his dealership and this team from the ground up with the customers, employees, his family and the communities served always as his top priorities. He taught us all the value of doing things the right way, of taking the time to build long-lasting relationships and making a difference wherever you can. To say that he will be missed is an understatement."
Moench sent his condolences to the family.
"On behalf of the residents of Bridgewater Township, I wish to pass my sincere condolences to Steve's wife and children during this most difficult time and once again thank Stave and the Kalafer family for the significant work they have done in and for our community," Moench said. "It will not soon be forgotten."