There’s always been this belief about how bad things come in threes and I don’t know if there’s any truth to it or when it happens we automatically fall back on this unproved theory.

I do know there have been many cases in which an unfortunate event has occurred twice and you just wait for the third to follow. Especially for those who live and work in Toms River there were a trio of losses over the weekend that by themselves would have been sad but as a group were tragic and painful as many knew and called all three “friends.”

Tom Kelaher

Tom Kelaher (Tom Mongelli)

Tom Kelaher will likely be best remembered for the 12 years he served as mayor of Toms River but he was much more than that.  A powerful attorney who was the township’s first municipal prosecutor and later the Ocean County prosecutor, Kelaher was a prominent figure in the community and if something was happening in Toms River there was a good chance you would find him there.

My late father had a world of respect and admiration for his fellow U.S. Marine who was a retired officer in the corps.  Anytime I saw Tom I greeted him with “Semper Fidelis” and got the same response.  He did not waste any of his 88 years and Toms River was fortunate to call Kelaher one of their own.

William “Bill” Herkert

William “Bill” Herkert (College of Charleston)

William “Bill” Herkert and I played football together and graduated from Central Regional High School in 1973.  He would go into law enforcement and rise through the ranks of the Toms River Police Department before retiring as a captain.

We would bump into one another occasionally and the last time I spoke with Bill was when he left Toms River to become the Chief of Police in Lewistown, PA while also teaching at Penn State University.

I lost touch over the years but was truly saddened to learn he lost his battle with cancer at the age of 65.

John Murphy

John Murphy (courtesy Pat Gengaro)

And then there was John Murphy who dedicated a big part of his life to teaching the game of basketball especially to girls.  It seems ironic that he died over the weekend while working as a referee at a youth game in Lakewood because the basketball court is where he spent so many hours.

Murphy established the Toms River Girls Basketball League in 1986 and later along with his wife Nannette founded one of the county’s first AAU programs and his Main Court Training Center was where many young players learned the fundamentals.

Nannette’s passing in 2017 was something John never recovered from but his love of basketball never waned and many past players stayed in touch over the years.

The thoughts and prayers of our community are with the families of all three men.

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