With the beautiful sounds of bagpipes, a large crowd had entered St. Peter’s Church, in Belleville, on July 25, to say farewell to former Belleville, NJ, Mayor Ray Kimble. And as soon as the service began, Ray’s youngest son, Steve, would deliver a powerful eulogy.
“My dad enjoyed a wonderful life,” said Steve. “Dad had a great enthusiasm for life. In his final weeks, you could see it in his eyes, as well as his facial expressions, that he wanted to keep fighting and to live as long as possible, despite the struggles that he experienced. Dad had a life filled with work that he thoroughly enjoyed, great friends and a loving family.”
Steve’s voice cracked as he praised the Belleville Police Department as the finest in the country.
Steve quoted President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with a perfect analogy for what it was like to grow up in Belleville.
“FDR once remarked, ‘Everything that I am is traceable right back to the community where I was raised’,” said Steve. “It is a quote that is relevant to many of us, and it certainly applies to Dad.”
Ray Kimble was 80 years old when God called him home on July 22, 2019. He had served as Mayor of Belleville for a dozen years. A graduate of Belleville High, Ray began his professional career as a police officer in town, before eventually being named Belleville’s Police Chief. He would later be named the Township’s Manager before eventually serving as Mayor.
Ray’s commitment to his community spoke volumes.
His commitment to family, beginning with his wife, the former Marie Marinaro, was legendary.
“Dad’s longest and most prized relationship was the one that he enjoyed with Mom,” said Steve. “They attended grammar school together, grew up in the 50’s with the introduction of Rock ‘n Roll music, and the fabulous cars of that era.
“They began a courtship at the eighth grade dance, in 1953. This courtship blossomed into a beautiful relationship that spanned in excess of 6 1/2 decades. They had diverse interests, as Mom enjoyed traveling, Broadway plays and the opera, whereas Dad enjoyed Atlantic City, card games, sporting events, and the racetrack.
“Nevertheless, they grew together, by sacrificing for each other, educating themselves, raising their children in a responsible manner, traveling together, spending time with their friends and enjoying the simple things in life such as a day at the beach, a barbeque, or even a walk to the bay in Surf City to watch the sunset.
“Most importantly, they shared a common bond, the love for their family. They supported each other throughout their marriage as evidenced by Mom’s dedication to Dad when his health started to deteriorate.”
Marie and Ray would raise four children, Raymond, Steve, Linda and Lisa, all of whom went through the Belleville school system. The couple also has 10 grandchildren.
Ray’s love of sports carried over from his high school days, as a Belleville Bellboy. Later, he would be a huge fan, watching his sons compete for the Buccaneers.
“Dad was the captain of his high school football and basketball teams,” recalled Steve. “Dad later served in the Army, then worked for PSE&G, for a brief period of time, (eventually) leaving the company to pursue his dream.
“In 1964, he began his 54-year tenure with the Township of Belleville, when he became a police officer. While working his way through the department, he earned his BS and MS degrees, all while raising four children.”
Ray Kimble’s career was certainly fulfilling.
“Not many people can claim that that they had the opportunity to serve as a policeman, the Chief of Police, the Township Manager and the Mayor in the community where they lived for their entire life,” said Steve. “Dad was not motivated by the power or the prestige of these positions, he was inspired to serve the people of Belleville by helping them, to see them prosper and to achieve their full potential.
“He was so proud of the people of this community, and the athletic teams. He also loved to see people that went on to do great things. He simply made you feel that Belleville was a special place, with special people, and that if you were not part of it, you were missing out on something.”
Steve admitted that Ray’s most enjoyable job in the Township was that of Police Chief. And, most of all, there were those cherished friends, some of whom have surely greeted Ray, in Eternity.
“I could envision Dad reaching the Gates of Heaven, to be greeted by his old friends like Marty McNish, Harry Llano, Sal LoCoco, his mentor, Mike Marotti, Avalanche, Pit, Tony Lombardi, Mike Richardella, Chick Puleo, Carmen Zecca, Vin LiPoma, Al Nufrio and many others.
“They had a wonderful friendship, in fact, for many years we always knew where we could find Dad at lunch time, it was with his friends at Maryanne’s (a local restaurant and cafe, on the corner of Washington Avenue and Joralemon Street).
An avid sports fan, Ray loved the New York Yankees and New York Giants.
“Right up until his final days, Dad enjoyed watching the Yankee games,” said Steve. “And a week ago, Dad’s good friend, Tom Murphy, arranged to have Bill Parcells call Dad, to offer him encouragement. I asked Dad, what did you say to Coach Parcells? Maintaining his sense of humor, he responded, ‘I thanked him for the memories, and although I enjoyed the two Super Bowl wins by the Giants (during Parcells’ tenure as head coach), it would have been nicer if the Giants covered the point spread more often for me in Chickie’s pool.”
As Ray’s health began to decline recently, Steve noted the outpouring of love from friends, who would bring food to his parent’s home, on a nightly basis.
“You could not have better friends than Mr. and Mrs. Mauro,” said Steve. “Every night, they brought food to my parents. Kenny Borrino, one of my Dad’s friends, dating all the way back to high school, visited him often and so did Jimmy Giuliano, Diane Hernandez, Kevin Esposito and Lee Quinn.
“Thank you to all of Dad’s other friends who took the time to visit and comfort him. And Dad’s sister, Carol Pomponio. stuck by him and supported him throughout his life.”
Steve also spoke with love of his older brother, Raymond, his wife, Dena and their children, Raymond and Lucia. Raymond, Steve’s brother, is a member of the Belleville High Hall of Fame.
Ray and Maria’s daughters, Linda and Lisa, are both parents of three children.
“Linda and her husband Sean brought great joy to Mom and Dad with the birth of twin boys – Sean and Stephen and their third child, Sonny,” said Steve. “Equally, Mom and Dad were thrilled when Lisa and John had another set of twin boys – Frank and John three weeks later. One year later their daughter Maria was born.
“Needless to say, Dad and Mom’s house in Surf City quickly became very crowded, and Dad enjoyed every minute with his grandchildren, taking them to the beach, going fishing, taking them on the amusement rides, going for ice cream and playing games with them.”
And, of course, Steve recalled his final conversation with his father.
“Last Sunday, when my wife Kelley, our daughter Hannah and our son Steven visited Dad, the last words that he spoke to us as a family were – “I love you.”
In closing, Steve summarized what his father meant to so many.
“My Dad believed in being firm, but fair, to the people that he worked with. He treated people with respect and dignity, often citing the phrase, ‘treat people the way you would want to be treated.’
“I believe whether it was his friends, colleagues or the members of his family, Dad brought out the best in people by believing in them. In turn, no one ever wanted to disappoint Dad, and as a result gave their best effort knowing they had a leader who would support them.
“I know this, for certain, as an average student. He filled me with the confidence necessary and encouraged me to work hard in order to pursue my goals and dreams.
“We loved Dad deeply, we will miss him dearly and we will grieve. But we will also cherish the memories of Dad, and honor him by continuing to build happy and rewarding lives.”