SOMERVILLE, NJ - Funeral arrangements have been announced for Summit Police Officer Matthew Tarentino, a resident of Someville who was one of two fatalities in a three-car accident on Route 78 in Bernards on Tuesday, May 30.
Viewing hours will be 4-8 p.m. Sunday, June 4, at Immaculate Conception RC Church, 35 Mountain Blvd., Somerville; the funeral mass will be at 10 a.m. Monday, June 5 at the church.
The Summit Police Athletic League (PAL) has established an online donation site to benefit his wife Vickie and two young sons. His wife is expecting their third child in August.
As noted on the page, "Officer Tarentino was the face of the department’s community policing unit and understood the importance of building relationships within Summit, most recently serving as Summit's DARE officer. During his time with the Summit Police Department, Matt created a lasting imprint on the department and the city as well as the children of Summit. While Officer Matthew Tarentino may be gone, he will never be forgotten.
The coming days, weeks and months will undoubtedly be difficult for all of us. We ask for support from the community for his wife Victoria, their two sons, Robert (3) and Raymond (2) and a third child due in August."
Tarentino, 29, a longtime resident of Somerville joined the Summit Police Department in 2012 and was a devoted worshiper at Immaculate Conception R.C. Church, according to Msgr. Seamus Brennan, rector of the Somerville church. Tarentino and his wife both graduated Immaculata High School and he held leadership roles at the Immaculate Conception School where he had also graduated eighth grade, according to the monsignor.
“Clearly, this is a difficult time for the family, the church and the parish,” Rev. Brennan said, “but we will soldier on and support the family however we can. He will be greatly missed by his parish family.
“This is also a huge loss for the Summit Police Department,” he added. “They loved him as a police officer and as a friend.”
The accident occurred at 6:20 a.m. May 30 when a car headed westbound on Route 78 in Bernards crossed over the grass median and struck Tarentino’s vehicle, who was headed east. Tarentino's vehicle then struck another car, according to State Police.
The driver of the car that crossed the median and struck Tarentino's vehicle died at Morristown Medical Center later that afternoon. His identity has not been released. The third driver, who was struck by Tarentino's car, was also transported to Morristown Medical Center with non-threatening injuries. State Police identified the third driver as 54-year-old Larry Staley of Easton, Pa.
The accident shut down Route 78 eastbound causing extensive traffic delays during rush hour. State Police are continuing to investigate the accident.
Tarentino was the Summit Police Department’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer, and was a familiar fixture in Summit’s schools, where he conducted DARE programs.
He was on his way to speak with a group of 5th-graders about the dangers of drug abuse when the accident occurred.
Two weeks ago he had received his certification to be a DARE mentor, trained to educate other police officers to work with the program. He was one of 20 DARE police officers enrolled in the program, held at the Somerville Elks Lodge 1068 in Bridgewater.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened by this tragedy,” said Somerville Mayor Brian Gallagher. “All of Somerville’s thoughts and prayers are with the Tarentino family."
The mayor, who jogs to stay in shape, would cross paths frequently with Tarentino who was also a runner.
“He was just such a nice guy, with a wonderful family,” Gallagher said.
Tarentino’s involvement with Immaculate Conception School goes back to his years as a student there in the late 1990s. After graduating eighth grade, he attended Immaculata High School, graduating in 2006; his wife Vickie also attended IHS, graduating in 2005. She is the director of Marketing at IHS.
Tarentino was a member of the marching band and concert band and played varsity tennis while a student at IHS, according to Ken Greg, a 1983 graduate of IHS who lives a few blocks from the Tarentinos. Both families have been friends going back several generations. Greg took drum lessons at Connie's a music studio on Davenport Street that was owned by Tarentino's grandfather and in later years, his father.
"I'd describe him as one of the nicest people I ever met, he had a good soul and never had a bad word to say about anybody," Greg said.
Tarentino was also president of the Immaculate Conception School Advisory Council, working with Msgr. Brennan and Sister Mary Chapman, school principal on curriculum, technology in the classroom, planning programs and activities.
One of those programs was the school’s annual Blue Mass tribute March 30 to honor the men and women of law enforcement, with over 100 police officers from more than one dozen departments in attendance.