Dover: The Town of Dover bids farewell to a proud native son. John J. Rich (aka Big John) passed away at his home on September 17, 2020. His wife of 64 years and family were by his side. John’s larger than life personality made him a very well-known figure around his hometown (and beyond).
The first-born son of Joe and Lillian Rich he spent his early childhood in Wharton and his teenage years on Thompson Hill in Dover. He graduated from Dover High School with the class of 1953. He went on to join the Marine Corp in 1956, an experience which shaped his persona and attitude in all aspects of his life thereafter. “Semper Fi” is the mantra he carried with him to his final hours (and thereafter). Having served from 1956-1958, he completed his tour of duty and returned home to rejoin his mom in their family-owned business, Lillie’s Famous Brand Shoes, in Riverdale, NJ. They later opened a second store on Blackwell Street in downtown Dover.
After dabbling in various jobs, John’s biggest career change came quite unexpectedly as he found himself in the demolition and salvage business. His first major job was demolishing several stores and apartments on Sussex Street in Dover following a devastating fire. His work took him west to Idaho to work with the Army Corp of Engineers following the catastrophic failure of the Teton Dam along the Snake River. One of his more complex jobs was the demolition and removal of an old pier which is now the site of Liberty Park in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty.
John served as the Chairman of Dover Housing Authority from 1990 - 2020. For his loyal service he was honored in 2008 when the building was dedicated in his name. The John J. Rich Senior Housing Building sits on the corner of Blackwell and S. Salem streets.
John took great pride in Dover. As self-proclaimed deputy Mayor, he often made his concerns and opinions known to town hall (and anyone else who would listen). Notable efforts include the beautification of the small garden and 9/11 Memorial at the bottom of Prospect Street. Every Veterans Day he was excited to decorate his truck with the Red, White, and Blue, along with the USMC colors and drive his truck through town (parade or not).
John is survived by his wife, Mary Ann (Glenn) Rich, his son Joseph Rocky Rich and Kim DeCarlo of Andover; his daughter Julie (Rich) Yaros and her husband Michael of Hopatcong, his son Peter Rich and his wife Tracy of Columbia, MD, and his son David Rich and his wife Sherry of Rockaway Borough, as well as his grandchildren, John, Nicole, Jessica, Danielle, Heather, Jordan, Anthony, and Maddy, and is predeceased by his grandson Zachary (2001). He is also survived by his brothers Phil Rich of Randolph and Ronald Rich of Succasunna, as well as numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, and countless friends.
Due to COVID restrictions, a modified viewing will be held 4-8pm at the Bermingham Funeral Home, 216 S. Main St., Wharton on Tuesday, September 22, 2020. Due to the current health crisis, only 75 people are allowed in the building at one time therefore we kindly ask guests to pay your respects and be mindful of the time to give others an opportunity to do the same. Face masks are always required to be worn inside the building
A private family service will be held Wednesday.
The funeral procession will pass through his beloved town of Dover on Wednesday at 11am, pausing momentarily to place flowers at the John J. Rich Senior Housing Building before the interment at Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Randolph.
In lieu of flowers please consider a donation in John’s name to the USMC Toys for Tots campaign (www.toysfortots.org).
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of John Joseph Rich, please visit our floral store.
Marine Toys for Tots