It was only a few days before he was struck crossing the street in front of the Bergenfield apartment complex where he lived that 76-year-old Robert Armbruster was laughing and sharing memories with former colleagues let go from New Jersey’s largest newspaper a decade ago.
Although his professional life was spent as a longtime copy editor at The Star-Ledger, Robert Armbruster devoted himself to helping others – building libraries for seminaries and schools in the Philippines and serving meals to the homeless in and around Bergenfield.
Prayers were raised after word spread that Ambruster, forced by back issues to use a cane, was hospitalized in critical condition after a PSE&G truck hit him on South Washington Avenue just before 10:30 a.m. Friday.
They were raised again when word came that he died 48 hours later, having never regained consciousness.
“Bob was a storied figure among church historians in the NYC area,” wrote Patrick Hayes, an archivist who lives in Philadelphia. “In Bergenfield, he was a leader in the Servants of the Lord (SOLD) group that provided meals to the less fortunate.
“A friend to all, he'd go the extra mile for anyone.”
Armbruster was crossing the street in front of the Magnolia Court apartments -- likely headed to the Dunkin Donuts across the street, those who knew him said -- when he was struck by a truck that had just turned off Magnolia Street.
"There will be no charges filed against the driver of the vehicle and no summonses issued," Bergenfield Police Capt. Mustafa Rabboh said Monday. "This is an accident and an unfortunate tragedy."
A Fordham Prep graduate, Armbruster went on to another Jesuit institution – St. Peter’s University (then St. Peter’s College) in Jersey City, where he later taught introductory theology as an adjunct professor.
He later went to Seton Hall University in South Orange, where he earned a Master’s Degree in theology with a concentration in church history.
Armbruster was an archivist for the Archdiocese of Newark and worked for the diocesan newspaper before going to the Ledger.
He was “a very generous person,” Juan Dela Cruz wrote in a Facebook tribute. “He visited our seminary here in Capiz, Philippines, to deliver a talk about the history of the Second Vatican Council and brought boxes of books.”
The biggest recipient was St. John the Evangelist School of Theology of the Archdiocese of Palo, Leyte, "which he said lost 85% of its books when Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines,” Jojo Reandelar recalled.
Super Typhoon Yolanda, as it was known there, was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded. It caused most of its $4.55 billion in damages to the Philippines when it struck southeast Asia in early November 2013.
“He told me if he had become a Jesuit priest he would have been assigned to the Philippines," Reandelar noted.
Armbruster “always had a smile on his face. A beautiful soul,” he said.
He “was a familiar face at St. John's Council #1345 Bergenfield-Dumont and always an active participant in our activities.” wrote George Williams of Bergenfield. "He was a breath of fresh air every time you ran into him."
“Big-hearted and generous guy,” added Peter Wosh of West Orange. “Very committed to his faith and to making the world a better place.”
His brother, George, called Armbruster “an extremely special person, one who was very kind and generous."
"Everyone loved him," George Armbruster said. "We now have another saint in Heaven to pray for all of us.”
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