He’d walked his daughter down the aisle just the day before when beloved Hackensack funeral director Tom Gentile died suddenly this weekend, friends and loved ones said.
“After a day of celebration, it is with heavy hearts that our family regretfully needs to announce that our patriarch, G. Thomas Gentile…passed away this morning,” the family announced Sunday.
He was 72.
Gaetano Gentile, a father of three, dedicated his life to helping people at one of the most vulnerable times in their lives.
“This community has been kind to me over the years, giving me the opportunity of fulfilling my dreams of offering the best that I can,” he once said.
Among many honors, Hackensack UNICO once named Gentile its “Man of the Year,” while the city Chamber of Commerce selected him as its “Distinguished Citizen of the Year.”
It was, indeed, a distinguished life.
Gentile was beloved by first responders and other members of the emergency services, among many others.
He was a parishioner of Hackensack’s Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church -- where he served as a Eucharistic minister, CCD teacher and member of the usher society, choir, and St. Vincent de Paul Society – and was a lifetime member of the Holy Name Society at St. Francis Church.
Gentile was a member of the Hackensack Elks Lodge # 658, a past grand knight and member of Trinity Council #747, a past president of the Trinity Columbian Club, a member of the Bishop O’Connor General Assembly Fourth Degree of Knights of Columbus and a former district deputy for the New Jersey State Knights of Columbus.
He also was a past president and member of the Bergen County Funeral Directors Association, as well as a member of New Jersey State Funeral Directors Association and the National Funeral Directors Association.
Gentile was in high school when a funeral director offered him a summer job.
He “continued working the funeral business every summer throughout his high school years and the tone was set for the rest of his life,” the G. Thomas Gentile Funeral Service website says.
Gentile wanted to be a teacher. He even got a Bachelor of Science degree in Comprehensive Business and Education from Findlay College in Ohio.
He chose a career in funeral service instead.
Gentile was graduated in 1971 with the prestigious "Thomas M. Quinn Award" from the American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service in Manhattan.
That same year, he received his Practitioner of Mortuary Science license from the state.
It was in the mid-70s that Gentile bought the former Gormley Community Funeral Home in Hackensack.
Through hard work and dedication the business expanded.
Soon after, Gentile acquired three city institutions -- the Steward Funeral Home, Ricardo Memorial Home and, finally, the Rocciola Funeral Home.
He combined the services of all the facilities into one convenient location built to accommodate the needs of anyone and everyone who came seeking his help.
He met Josephine, who became his wife, at church.
Besides Josephine, Gentile is survived by son, Joseph, who has handled the day-to-day operations of his father’s business, and daughters Lisa and Nicole, who was married to Robert Nugent on Saturday at Holy Trinity. A reception at the Stony Hill Inn followed.
Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home on Union Street that bears his name.
A funeral Mass was planned for Thursday.
“Our family would like to thank everyone who has already reached out and is keeping us in your thoughts and prayers,” the Gentiles said Sunday.
In lieu of flowers, the family would prefer donations in Gentile’s memory to: St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital 262 Danny Thomas Place Memphis, TN 38105.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.