(NEW JERSEY) - Elected officials and political leaders from all over the state are sending in words of condolences to State Senator and Chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, Ronald L. Rice (Newark) on the sudden passing of his beloved wife of 35 years, Shirley Rice. Mrs. Rice passed away unexpectedly on the morning of August 4, 2020. Shirley Rice, a long time champion for collegiate education, met the then future senator while working as an administrator at the University of California-Berkeley. Shirley Rice later became an administrator at Essex County College.
Governor Philip D. Murphy released the following statement: “Tammy and I would like to send our deepest condolences to a dear friend and partner, Senator Ron Rice, on the sudden loss of his wife, Shirley, last night. As a college administrator, Shirley had a tremendous impact on her students. As a friend to so many, she was always somebody that they could turn to. She will be greatly missed by those who had the honor of meeting her and the many people she helped through her career and her friendship. We are keeping Senator Rice, his son Ron, daughter Yuki, and their family and friends in our prayers during this extraordinarily difficult time.”
LT. Governor Sheila Y. Oliver and longtime friend of Rice released the following statement: "I send my heartfelt sympathy to Senator Ron Rice, a close friend and colleague, on the passing of his wife, Shirley, who was an extraordinary woman and mentor to so many. She was an amazing mother, wife, and friend who will be incredibly missed. I hope happy memories of Shirley give Ron, their children, and her loved ones solace as they grieve."
New Jersey Democratic State Committee Chairman John Currie released the following statement: “On behalf of the NJDSC, I want to extend my deepest condolences to Senator Rice on the sudden passing of his beloved wife Shirley. In addition to being a wonderful wife to the Senator and mother to her children, Shirley Rice was an accomplished school administrator who made a positive impact on thousands of young men and women during her career. She will be greatly missed and our thoughts and prayers are with the Rice family during this tragic time.”
Essex County Chairman LeRoy J. Jones, Jr. released the following statement: “My wife Jackie and I send our deepest condolences to Senator Rice as we mourn with our long-time friend and his family on the passing of Shirley. Shirley was one of the nicest people we have ever known. Her kindness and sweet spirit left a permanent impression upon our hearts. We thank Shirley for sharing her and her husband’s time, gifts, and talents with the world. As the saying goes, ‘beside every great man, there is a greater woman.’ For 35 years, Shirley stood by the side of Ron, and they were inseparable. That inseparable bond between Ron and Shirley will live on forever, as their 35-year marriage serves an inspiration to us all for generations to come.”
Senate President Steve Sweeney issued the following statement: “I want to express my sincere condolences to Ron Rice and his family on the passing of his wife Shirley. I know this is a heartbreaking loss for Ron, his children Ronald and Yuki, and the entire Rice family. With grace, intelligence and humility, Shirley Rice was a source of strength and inspiration for everyone who knew her. In this time of grief, I hope the Rice family finds comfort in the knowledge of the timeless impact Shirley had in the lives of so many.”
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin issued the following statement: “My heart goes out to Senator Ron Rice and his family as they mourn Shirley’s sudden passing. Her loss is truly tragic for all who knew her – especially her husband and children. By all accounts, she was a smart, kind person who helped NJ students and loved her family dearly. My thoughts and prayers are with her loved ones.”
Senator Richard Codey, former Governor of New Jersey released following statement: “When Senator Rice told me last night about Shirley’s passing, I knew Ron and the entire Newark community had suffered a great loss. She was a wonderful human being who was a constant presence in Ron’s life, and one of the sweetest and kindest people you could ever meet. She was a wonderful wife, mother and grandmother. Shirley was well respected higher education professional, especially at Essex County College where she served as dean of students, and throughout the entire community. She will no doubt be missed by her family and friends. I’m sure she has already joined the Democratic Party in heaven.”
Senate President Pro-Tempore Teresa Ruiz said, Shirley Rice “was a beloved wife, mother and grandmother, who brought light into the lives of all those who knew her.”
Assemblywoman Britnee N. Timberlake, member of the Legislative Black Caucus Senator Rice Chairs, who serves Orange, East Orange, Clifton, and Montclair said, “Senator Rice and his family are in the thoughts and prayers of my family and I, as we mourn the loss of Shirley with them. The marriage of Mrs. Shirley Rice and the Senator was a master class in love and commitment for us all. While any loss is hard to bear, a sudden loss can be all the more difficult. The Senator and his wife have tirelessly given to the public, and contributed daily to make the world a better place. Although we can never repay them, what we can do is send our thoughts, love, prayers and respect while celebrating the life of Shirley with Senator Rice and his beloved family.”
Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick issued a statement: “I am shocked and so sad to hear of the unexpected passing of my friend’s beloved wife,” said Bramnick. “Shirley was a wonderful mother and wife, and she was beloved by all who knew her. She will be deeply missed. My heartfelt prayers are with Ron, their children, and their entire family as they mourn this unspeakable loss.”
Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean (R-21) released the following statement: “Rhonda and I are saddened to hear of the passing of Shirley Rice, the beloved wife of long-time colleague, friend, and confidant Senator Ron Rice. A dedicated mother, kind friend, and passionate advocate for students, Shirley’s loss will be felt by all who knew her. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Rice family during this difficult time.”
Essex County Freeholder President Brendan W. Gill released the following statement: “On behalf of my family, I offer my heartfelt condolences and prayers to Senator Ron Rice and his family on the tragic loss of his wife Shirley. Shirley was extremely impactful to her community through her work as a college administrator, and she left an indelible mark as a friend to all who had the pleasure of knowing her. We will keep Senator Rice and his family in our thoughts as they move forward through this difficult time.”
The Senator’s son, Ron C. Rice former Newark Councilman released the following tribute on his Facebook page: “I want to thank all of my friends and folks that have sent me their condolences and prayers over the passing of my mom #2 Shirley Rice. Although Shirley was not my birth mother (my birth mother, Mary Rice, lives down here in Md with the rest of my family), she was my mom nonetheless. Always giving me good advice, always with a smile on her face and always, as she joint parented me growing up, with a firm word that she would punctuate with "that is just my opinion, you can do what you want since you think you are grown" (a direct quote). But more than that, she loved my father with all of [her] heart and was the only person that I knew that could ever make him take a step back, re-evaluate and apologize or make amends, or simply laugh and make him go mute. When they were not together, he talked about her. When they were together, their interactions would make you laugh and smile because they genuinely made each other happy. For over 35 years, they were inseparable in love. I would ask that everyone on FB give my father a little room, a little time and a little grace during his and our family's grieving process, it is not every day that a man loses his rib. Your son, Libi, Mia and RJ love you mom 2, but I know, with every inch of my being, that we will see each other again and I will be able to say thank you for the love you gave me face to face.”