SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – At his daily press briefing June 9, Gov. Phil Murphy recognized and honored longtime South Plainfield resident Julian ‘Jules’ Rydarowski.
A 90-year-old United States Navy veteran and resident of the borough for 55 years, Mr. Rydarowski passed away on May 22 due to complications from COVID-19.
“He lived to be 90…and I know he had many, many more years before him if not for COVID-19,” said the governor during his press conference, citing Mr. Rydarowski’s personal and professional accomplishments and involvements.
“We remember Julian Rydarowski who enlisted in the U.S. Navy and assisted the 1st Marine Division during the Korean War. After returning home, he spent nearly 40 years in medicine. He loved spending time with his family,” stated the governor, adding, “Jules took special joy in being with his family and special pride in the accomplishments of his grandchildren.”
In February, Mr. Rydarowski had heart valve replacement surgery and although he returned home, his health began to decline. In early April, he had an acute stroke and was admitted to JFK Medical Center. Shortly after, Mr. Rydarowski was transferred to the hospital’s rehab facility and over the weeks that followed experienced other health-related setbacks and ultimately contracted COVID-19. On the morning of May 22 he was moved to JFK’s Haven Hospice and passed away later that day.
“We were very proud that he was honored by the governor," said Mr. Rydarowski’s daughter and South Plainfield resident Susan Gwiazda. “My dad would have definitely been very excited about his few minutes of fame. He would have loved seeing himself on TV, although he would feel that he didn’t deserve the recognition.”
Born and raised a town over, Mr. Rydarowski graduated from Plainfield High School in 1948 and enlisted in the United States Navy in 1951. He served at the U.S. Naval Hospital - Camp Pendleton Marine Corp Base in Oceanside, CA and as a Combat Medical Corpsman and attained the rank of Hospital Man 2nd Class – Sgt. He was assigned to the 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division in Osaka, Japan and his division assisted the 1st Marine Division fighting during the Korean War.
In 1955, Mr. Rydarowski received his honorable discharge from the military, returned home and, three years later, graduated from what is now the College of Pharmacy and Health Science at St. John’s University. In 1965, Mr. Rydarowski married the love of his life, the late Maureen Diegnan, and settled in South Plainfield to raise their two children, Susan and Joseph.
Mr. Rydarowski’s career as a pharmacist spanned more than four decades and, in 1995, he retired. On a local front, he was involved with the Church of the Sacred Heart, serving on the parish council and assisting with Bingo, and was a 3rd Degree Knight with the Commodore John Barry Council Knights of Columbus in Dunellen as well as a member of the Roadrunner Travel Club and South Plainfield Senior Center. In his spare time, he enjoyed photography, golf, bowling, computers and watching mystery shows and Seinfield.
“He wouldn’t go to bed until he watched the last episode of Seinfield that aired each night,” said Gwiazda, noting that during her father’s 90th birthday celebration in late 2019, family surprised him with a message from the show’s popular ‘Soup Nazi.’
Mr. Rydarowski also enjoyed spending time with his family, going out to dinner – so long as chicken wasn’t on the menu – and loved a ‘properly made’ southern comfort old-fashioned. He was also extremely proud of his grandchildren and enjoyed attending their sporting events, train shows, and dance performances.
According to Gwiazda, her dad was ‘very patriotic, very proud of his Polish heritage, and very religious with a special devotion to Mary.’ “He always had an American flag pin on his jacket; red and white – the colors of the Polish flag – were his favorite colors; and he was always praying for the safety of his family and those who were sick,” she said, adding that her dad also had wonderful sense of humor, was known for his big bear hugs and strong, firm handshake as well as his honesty and catchy sayings.
"He would always say ‘you’re alright, no matter what they say’ and he always told it like it was, whether you wanted to hear it or not. He was always very honest," Gwiazda said.
“He lived a very full and happy life,” said Senator Patrick J. Diegnan of South Plainfield whose oldest sister Maureen was married to Mr. Rydarowski. “He was really the reflection and true personification of the American Dream – the son of immigrants who served his country, was self-made, and truly a good person. Anybody that knew him liked him.”
Mr. Rydarowski is predeceased by his parents Julian A. and Stephania (Podmokly), his wife of nearly 44 years Maureen (Diegnan), his sister Emelia and her husband Ted Stahura, his brother Thaddeus and his wife Agnes Rydarowski, and his in-laws, Patrick and Sally Diegnan.
He is survived by his daughter, Susan and her husband Glenn Gwiazda of South Plainfield, and his son Joseph Rydarowski and wife Debra of Metuchen; five grandchildren, Robert and Sarah Gwiazda, and Aidan, Joseph and Dillon Rydarowski; brothers and sisters-in-laws Donald and Geri, Richard and Susan, Norman and Anita, Joseph Diegnan, Evelyn and John Gorman, and Senator Patrick Diegnan and Anita along with several nieces, nephews and extended family members.
A private service was held at McCriskin-Gustafson Home for Funerals with burial at Holy Redeemer Cemetery. The family has also launched an online memorial fundraiser (https://bit.ly/37gIwHN) in Mr. Rydarowski’s honor; proceeds will go toward the purchase of iPads for the staff at the rehab facility within JFK Medical Center.
“The nurses along with the speech and physical therapists at JFK were fantastic and we were extremely lucky that we got to talk to him as much as we did,” said Gwiazda, noting that with her father hospitalized during the current healthcare crisis, visitation was not allowed.
“We were able to communicate eith him often through FaceTime and it helped put him as well as his family at ease,” she said. “We are hoping to raise enough money to buy some iPads and other needed items so that the hospital staff can continue to help other families keep in touch with patients in their care.”
“[This] is a fitting way to remember a great man by remembering the health care heroes who stood by him,” said the governor, adding, “To Jules, may God bless you. We thank you for your service to our nation and for being a model New Jerseyan. May God bless you and all of your family and friends.”
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