Hundreds came to St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in East Hanover Friday morning for the funeral mass of Ralph Politi Jr., so many that the sanctuary could not hold them all.
Many watched a simulcast of the service in adjacent rooms or downstairs. Others stood outside of the church, listening to the audio on huge speakers.
Wherever one was, the public display of sadness was apparent as people shared hugs or wiped away tears at the sudden, inexplicable loss of a person who by all accounts worked hard, played hard and gave all he had for his family, his friends and his town.
Politi, 49, was killed outside his auto parts business at 30 Ridgedale Ave. Saturday after .
Parsippany resident Vanessa Brown, 32, is being held in the Morris County Correctional Facility in lieu of $400,000 bail with no 10 percent option and facing charges including first-degree aggravated manslaughter in the killing.
Eulogizing her husband, Rosemarie Rubinetti Politi noted her family's demand that justice be done in the name of the clearly beloved spouse and father, son, brother, uncle and friend.
But rather than focus on how he died, the widow and her fellow mourners chose to celebrate Politi, who St. Rose pastor the Rev. Owen Moran described as "."
There were tears, but laughs too.
Moran jokingly marveled that for once, Politi was on time for mass. But even the priest appeared to be moved when recalling that Politi's parents, Ralph Sr. and Rita, who were in attendance to say goodbye to their first-born son, were founding members of St. Rose of Lima. And he spoke of his gratitude for Ralph Jr.'s work at the church, where he painted the parish's youth academy.
Rosemarie Politi elicited laughs talking about how her husband could be loud and boisterous and about his love for golf, coaching softball and spending time with friends. She also recalled how he was a tough, loving father to his twin teenage daughters and was committed to doing good for his family and his community.
Politi was also remembered for his dedication to making East Hanover a better place through his work on the the board of the Hanover Park Regional High School District, as president of the East Hanover Community Partnership, volunteered for the East Hanover Recreation Department girls softball league.
Father Moran noted how hard Politi worked to "turn the family business into the family empire."
Above all, though, the lifelong East Hanover resident was remembered for his love for his family. Born to a "sometimes rambunctious" clan of seven girls and two boys, Politi was number six to arrive, and the first son, which made him special to his parents and to his siblings, who alternately smiled and wept and held on to each other for support.
"Saturday changed our lives forever," his wife said, adding that their girls would grow up to be hardworking women of faith and integrity, as their father wanted. "And I'll make sure of it."
Dr. Joseph L. Ricca, superintendent of schools of the East Hanover Board of Education, who has political ties to Parsippany, was in attendance.
"He did so much good for everyone he met, and not just in East Hanover," Ricca said. "Ralph was just a great guy."
The presence of law enforcement officers from others towns, including Newark, Livingston and Madison, as well as the Morris County Sheriff's Office stood as a testament to the many and widespread lives touched by Ralph Politi Jr.
As bagpipers paid tribute to Politi with the hymn "Amazing Grace," East Hanover Mayor Joseph Pannullo remembered his dear friend.
"Ralph will be missed by all of us," he said. "He did so much for this town and means so much to so many people. What comforts me is knowing that his family will get through this. His wife comforted me. Now, it's our turn to take care of them."
Pannullo said that after the mourning period has passed, a permanent memorial to Politi will be established in East Hanover.
"His parents deserve that," the mayor said. "Ralph deserves it."