For sure Al Dietrich and I had two things in common.  He became Superintendent of Schools in the Toms River Regional District in 1979 which was the same year I started at WOBM.  The other was our love of high school sports and belief that it was and is an important part of the education experience.

Albert J. Dietrich died Wednesday morning peacefully in his home at the age of 85 and leaves behind a lasting legacy that stretches far and wide.  There is Peggy, his wife of 62 years and his four children (Danny, Debbie, Darren and Dougie), 12 grandchildren and great grandson.  There is also a countless number of people who owe their careers in education to Al who was an innovator and believed strongly that a school district could and should stress academic excellence while providing a long list of extra-curricular activities.  All students should have the opportunity to get in the game.

He began his career in the Toms River Schools in 1963, teaching Intermediate School English.  It did not take long for him to make an impact, writing the first teacher’s contract and becoming president of the Toms River Education Association.

That position would help him when in 1979 he was named superintendent.  At just 44 years old he was the youngest person to hold that position in the state and he would lead the school district during a time of great growth until retiring in 1991.

Time does not allow me to list all the awards and accolades he received during his career but Al was named Toms River Man of the Year not once but twice.  He was inducted into the Toms River Schools Hall of Fame in 2003 and in 2014 was appropriately honored by being inducted into the district’s Athletic Hall of Fame because of his love and support of sports.

During his tenure as superintendent we talked often about high school athletics and later Al and I served together on the Toms River Student Loan Fund where we continued that dialogue.  I always enjoyed those candid conversations. And they were candid.

For those wanting to pay their final respects, visitation is today from 4 p.m. - 8 p.m. at Anderson & Campbell on Main Street in Toms River with a funeral mass Saturday morning (10:30 a.m.) at St. Joseph’s Church.

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