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FAMILY OF THE YEAR
Rita and Ralph Politi Sr., center, surrounded by their nine children.At left, the late Ralph Politi Jr., will be honored posthumously at the dinner; right, son Jimmy Politi and their seven daughters, in middle row, Mary Tracy, Rita Di Martinis and Rachel Chirumbollo; back row, Karen Hartman, Susan Wecksler, Donna Zarelli and Debbie Davis.
It all began in the tiny Italian village of Terranova, located in the city of Arpaise, about 30 miles northeast of Naples, in the Province of Benevento, Campania. Cosimo Politi had a dream to come to America and in 1906 he made that dream came true. He settled in Orange, New Jersey, where he met and married Mary Sylvestri who was from Pratola Serra in the Province of Avellino, also in Campania. They would go on to have five children: Vito, Alessio, Americo, Ralph and Mildred. Cosimo worked for Thomas Edison and among the many lessons he instilled in his children were a strong work ethic, but also to show patience while always showing kindness to everyone. Cosimo’s attitude was that no one was really a stranger, they are people that you have not yet begun to know. This remarkably positive attitude was something that his so Ralph embraced and would continue to pass on to others throughout his life.
Ralph Politi attended Orange High School where he not only studied hard but was also a standout football player and was named to the All State Team. It was in high school that he met his future bride, Rita, whose family had moved to Orange for her senior year of high school. Rita’s family was from Carbondale, Pennsylvania by way of Calabria, Italy. The two graduated from Orange High School in 1949 and Ralph would go on to study at Newark Academy. He then joined his brothers to work at their gas station and auto repair business in Orange, while Rita worked for the phone company. Ralph and Rita were married on April 1, 1951 and their long and successful marriage proved that their union was no April Fool’s joke. In 1955, the couple decided to move from Orange to the suburbs of East Hanover, New Jersey determined to pursue their dreams. They still live in the same house they built all those years ago.
Ralph always envisioned owning his own business and in 1963, he and his brother Americo opened Politi Auto Parts in East Hanover. With the support of many people who found in Ralph a spirit and drive, he worked relentlessly to build his business, always keeping in the back of his mind the lessons that he had learned from his father Cosimo, so many years earlier – treat people with kindness and development and understanding people, so that no one will remain a stranger. Ralph would go on to accomplish another goal by building Politi Plaza on Ridgedale Avenue in East Hanover. He moved the auto parts store to that building as the anchoring business for the new development. Politi Auto Parts continues to be a landmark in East Hanover. Several years later, Ralph built the Riverwalk Plaza adjacent to the Politi Plaza.
During that time Ralph and Rita were also busy having and raising a family. By 1967 they had been blessed with nine children: Mary, Karen, Donna, Debbie, Rachel, Susan, Ralph Jr., Rita and Jimmy. Over the years the Politi family has continued to grow and at Ralph and Rita have 22 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild.
The family has always relied on their faith and were instrumental in helping to open the Church of St. Rose of Lima in East Hanover. They spent countless hours volunteering at the church and continue to support it with vigorously to this day. Ralph and Rita have shown their family and others what it is to work hard, give back to your community, be kind to others, give everyone a fair chance and most important of all to have patience.
Tragedy struck the family in 2012, when Ralph Politi, Jr. was hit by swerving car driven by an alcohol-impaired driver, as he stood outside Politi Plaza. He had been a board member for the Hanover Park Regional School District and president of the East Hanover Community Partnership. Ralph was also the married father of twin daughters. Admired by everyone who knew him, Ralph was a strong leader and a generous man, who life was cut short many, many years too soon.