Photography

John Joseph Santulli

January 1, 1936 ~ May 19, 2022 (age 86)

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John Joseph Santulli, 86, passed away on Thursday, May 19, 2022. “Jackie” was born in Brooklyn, New York on January 1, 1936, and suffice it to say, they don’t make’m like that anymore. He moved to Allendale, New Jersey as a teenager, along with his parents Michael and Lena, and his brothers Mickey and Richard, and sister Helene. John graduated from Saint Luke’s High School where he lettered in baseball and football. An Army Veteran, he was the owner of Hilltop Inc. in Ramsey, New Jersey, which he ran successfully for over thirty years with his brother Richie. Before retiring to Bay Head, New Jersey, John’s Hilltop Truck Rental business was a perennial Top 10 National Dealer for Ryder and Penske Truck Rental corporations. John was the co-founder of Ridgewood Biddy Basketball and a longtime coach and executive in the Ridgewood Baseball Association. John is survived by his cherished wife of fifty-five years Margaret (nee. Hart). Devoted father of son John Micheal Santulli and his wife Kimberly, son David Santulli, and daughter Catherine Santulli. Loving grandfather to Micheal Ray, Jack, Mitchell and Elliott.
Both as a child and an adult, Jackie was a mix of his three siblings Mickey, Richie and Helene. Mickey was the academic and Jackie both aspired to but also possessed much of the philosophical intellect of his older brother. Right to the end, Jackie voraciously read books passed on to him by big brother, Dr. Michael Santulli. None few have had the work ethic or mechanical expertise of his younger brother Richie, but Jack gave it his best shot. And without question, the open, sweet and loving heart of his baby sister Helene was shared with and nourished by his little sister.
Despite a wonderful childhood, John’s life started the day he met Margaret Hart. It’s been said that everybody’s got a hungry heart, but John’s heart was full from the moment he met Margaret. Working long days at Hilltop (Shell, Gulf, and Mobil) John and Margaret built a life for their children in Ridgewood, New Jersey, always providing for his children everything they needed, but little that they did not. John purchased a little two family home at 439 Jackson Terrace before they were married. They rented one side of the home, mostly to family, to subsidize their income. As their family grew, so did their home. With the birth of their first son John Micheal, they started the conversion of two tiny apartments into a small single family home. With the birth of each child came an addition on their home. When David was born, an addition downstairs made space for a bedroom for the boys to share. And when Catherine showed up, an upstairs bedroom was eventually added to form what became a beautiful, four bedroom home on the Westside of Ridgewood.
439 Jackson Terrace was usually filled with the kids’ friends, and this is where John spent the early years of parenthood – raising John Micheal, David and Catherine under Margaret’s watchful Catholic eye – and investing just about every free moment he had away from Hilltop creating sports opportunities for the children of Ridgewood.
Ridgewood sports, Mount Carmel Church, his wife and his kids- that was his life. The back of his Mets Dream Week baseball card reads, “Good kids, great wife.” If the author of this life story was smart, that is where this narrative would begin and end.
But John was a coach at heart. And back when youth sports leaders actually cared about all children, not just their own, John created a culture of service to others within the organizations he led. Along with the help of some like minded friends, he co-founded Ridgewood Biddy Basketball. Under John’s direction, Ridgewood Biddy produced perennial state champions- made up of kids who were taught how to play the game – but more importantly, kids who were taught to have fun playing the game.
In 1981, under John’s leadership, Ridgewood Biddy Basketball, in partnership with Teaneck Biddy Basketball, hosted the National Biddy Basketball Tournament. John coached the 7th Grade All-Stars in that tournament.
John was also co-founder of the Ridgewood Soccer Association, which is still the governing body for boys and girls playing soccer in the Village today.
But when it came to coaching, it was on the baseball field where John was most happy. A lifelong fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and then the New York Mets, there was nary a kid who grew up in Ridgewood who didn’t field a grounder or take batting practice from John. He coached multiple Tiny Tim, Little League, and Pony League teams throughout the years. He also coached all-star teams at the Sandy Koufax and Bob Feller levels, leading multiple teams to championship games. Simply put, he was a master baseball coach.
More than a few of these players got to know “Mr. Santulli” as boss as well as coach. John was always eager to help a kid out with a part-time job or a couple of extra bucks hiking trucks. And let’s not forget about the stateside nephews and nieces, who all worked at Hilltop one point or another. Whether it be a niece pumping gas as penance for missing a curfew, or some of the nephews hopping on a last minute flight to Providence to get more trucks to cover reservations, they all had the pleasure of working for Uncle Jackie. No offense to his business partner Uncle Richie, but the cousins knew it was always safer to go left into the office rather than right into the shop. John also had a special relationship with his nieces and nephews on the other side of the pond. Whether it was Scotland heading west or John & Margaret heading east, there were always laughter and love, as well as more than a few glasses of wine and pints shared, when John got together with Margaret’s family
After years of sweltering summers and freezing winters at the gas pumps and in the shop at Hilltop (Richie would argue that his brother “The King” spent most of his time shuffling across the office floor in his rolling thrown) John and Margaret started to plan the next part of their lives. Margaret is a beach girl. Summer vacations with the kids were spent at first in Cape Cod, and then for many years on Long Beach Island. She wanted a house by the beach. John knew that down the Shore, everything’s all right, especially when you’re in love with a Glasgow girl, so on to Bay Head it was.
John had given much of his life to the children of Ridgewood, especially the neighborhood kids – John Micheal, David and Catherine’s friends. And as they became teenagers, those kids got a glimpse of another of John and Margaret’s passions and skills – partying. Bay Head Yacht Club’s white glove affairs were no match for a back-yard, garage bar party thrown by John and Margaret Santulli at 282 Osborne Avenue, Bay Head, NJ.
Parties would last deep into the night and there was always only one rule – you could party all night if you wanted, but you were going to church Sunday morning.
Along the way, Margaret and John became Granny and Pop Pop, and the parties that were thrown for Catherine, David, John Mike (and Kim) were now also in celebration of Micheal Ray, Jack, Mitchell and Elliott.
The Brooklyn kid who spent his life in a gas station somehow raised a family in Ridgewood and Bay Head. The two parts of that sentence really shouldn’t go together. But they do – it’s all true. One might think that John had an intricate master plan to create that life for his children, his grandchildren, and leave a legacy of lazy days on the beach and parties under the Jersey Shore stars for generations of Santulli’s to follow.
But his plan was quite simple – make Margaret happy. She will take care of the rest.
Funeral from Feeney Funeral Home, 232 Franklin Avenue, Ridgewood, New Jersey with Visitation, Thursday, May 26th, 6:00 – 8:00 pm. Funeral Liturgy from Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 1 Passaic Street, Ridgewood, New Jersey, Friday May 27th, 10:00 am. For more information, please visit feeneyfuneralhome.com.

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Services

Visitation
Thursday
May 26, 2022

6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Feeney Funeral Home
232 Franklin Avenue
Ridgewood, NJ 07450

Service
Friday
May 27, 2022

10:00 AM
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel RC Church
1 Passaic Street
Ridgewood, NJ

Cemetery

General Doyle Cemetery

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