By Ron Leir
Harrison has lost a dedicated civil servant with the death of Public Works Superintendent Ronald Catrambone.
Catrambone died Sunday, Feb. 10, at St. Barnabas Medical Center, Livingston, after a lengthy illness. He was 61.
Catrambone was buried Wednesday, Feb. 13, in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington, after a funeral Mass at Holy Cross Church, Harrison. Arrangements were by the Mulligan Funeral Home, Harrison.
“Harrison has lost a very good friend,” said Mayor Raymond McDonough. “Ronnie loved the town of Harrison.”
Catrambone, who is survived by his wife Sharon, his son Kevin, his daughter Nicole, his brother Joseph and grandchildren Justin, Gia, Jordan and Nicholas, was a lifelong Harrison resident and a Harrison High School alumnus.
After stints as a home contractor, Garden State Parkway Authority foreman, day care owner and eatery/bar owner, Catrambone was hired by Harrison as a public works supervisor in December 2002 and was promoted to superintendent in August 2006. He completed the Rutgers University Certified Public Works Manager program and earned his certificate from the state Department of Community Affairs in 2007.
During his six-year tenure as superintendent, Catrambone was credited by town officials with setting up a full-service motor pool maintenance division and training employees to perform such functions as paving, concrete work, boiler maintenance and fencing in-house instead of hiring outside contractors, all of which saved the town money and helped the department operate more efficiently.
“Ronnie was an extremely dedicated superintendent, spending countless hours overseeing every aspect of the town’s building/grounds and streets maintenance,” said Town Clerk/Attorney Paul Zarbetski. “If there was a water main break, a traffic light knock-down, or a house fire, Ronnie was there, whether it was 2 a.m. Sunday or the middle of the day. Snow removal, however, was his passion and he did it better than anyone.”
Even before Catrambone got his town job, he was always invested in the town’s well-being, McDonough said. “He used to call me up about things he saw around town that he felt had to be taken care of. And he was loyal. If I needed anything done, he was there. He’ll be hard to replace.”
Catrambone served as chairman of the Harrison Zoning Board of Adjustment, was a faithful Holy Cross parishioner and was a longtime member of the Harrison East Newark Elks. He cooked for the annual St. Patrick’s Day seniors dinner and he often bought doughnuts as treats for folks at the Harrison Senior Center.
“Ronnie never missed a Mass at Holy Cross Church,” recalled former Harrison Municipal Court Judge John Johnson, whose family grew up “five doors away” from the Catrambones on Hamilton St.
“He was an upstanding man,” Johnson said. “If he gave you his word, you could take that to the bank. You always knew where he stood. He was beyond reproach.”
Before he got sick, Catrambone was part of an eight-man Harrison crew organized by Johnson that, starting in 2001, made annual jaunts to South Bend, Ind., to watch Notre Dame football games.
While he was devoted to Sharon, his high school sweetheart and wife of four decades, and his kids, “Ronnie’s true calling, however, was as a grandfather to Justin, Gia, Jordan and Nicholas,” Zarbetski said. “He never missed a soccer/ basketball/baseball game or recital, no matter how far he had to travel or the plans he had to cancel. You never had to ask Ronnie his plans for the weekend because the answer was always the same – the grandkids. The thing that kept Ronnie going during his year-long battle with cancer was his desire to see his grandchildren one more day.”
“Most of us knew Ronnie as a non-nonsense tough guy but the grandchildren melted that hard exterior and revealed a gentler side that even he didn’t know existed,” Zarbetski said. “From walking up and down FER Blvd. pushing a baby carriage to riding his bike around Seaside Park with grand kid in tow and Coco, his Maltese dog, in a basket to changing diapers and feeding bottles, there was nothing that Ronnie wouldn’t do for his little princes and princesses.”
“Those people that did not take the time to get past Ronnie’s boisterous, largerthan- life personality missed out on the opportunity to gain a true friend,” Zarbetski said. “You could count on Ronnie when you were in need. He was demanding of his friends because he was demanding of himself.”