ELMWOOD PARK, N.J. -- It is a measure of the man that so many political opponents expressed grief and bestowed praise Friday after learning that Elmwood Park Mayor Richard Mola -- who held the office for 45 years -- died Thursday night.
A Trump delegate at this year's National Republican Convention, the 80-year-old Mola was one of the nation's longest-serving mayors.
The retired Westwood history teacher and Ridgefield Park guidance counselor -- who last November won his 12th straight four-year term -- suffered a stroke last week, friends told Daily Voice.
ARRANGEMENTS: A Funeral Mass was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at St. Leo's R.C. Church, 324 Market Street, Elmwood Park, followed by entombment in George Washington Memorial Park, Paramus & Century Roads in Paramus, at 11:30 a.m.
Visiting hours are from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday and from 1 to 8 p.m. Monday at Patrick J. Conte Funeral Home, Inc., 274 Market Street, Elmwood Park.
Mola was a legend, Woodland Park Mayor Keith Kazmark said.
"He was a mentor, a friend and a gifted sparing partner," said Kazmark, a Democrat and Clinton delegate at this year's Democratic National Convention.
"The generational gap between us added such a unique aspect to great friendship," said Kazmark, who is Elmwood Park's borough clerk. "Politically, he taught me that the worthy opposition is just that, opposition, not the enemy. I learned how to reach across the aisle, develop relationships, show respect and most importantly, how to be a bit more patient.
"The man was a gentleman and knew his craft. I'm forever grateful that he touched my life."
“It is with a heavy heart that today we mourn the loss of one of the pillars of our community," wrote Elmwood Park Councilman Joseph Dombrowski, a Democrat.
"Richard A. Mola was a devoted public servant and an even better person. He cherished his family and was deeply committed to serving all families in our community," Dombrowski wrote. "He left an indelible imprint on this town, impacting so many lives. To all who had the good fortune of getting to know him, he will be missed.
"Mayor Mola and I may have had different political views," the councilman added, "but we shared a profound respect for one another. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time.”
A past president of the Bergen County Republican Mayors Association, Mola was also a county freeholder for 22 years.
"He was always a great personality at our monthly mayor meetings in Hackensack," Bergenfield Republican Mayor Norman Schmelz told Daily Voice. "He will be missed by many."
"Whether it was something as small as throwing out the first pitch to open our Little League baseball season or something like officiating over my sisters wedding, he did everything with a smile and a world of class," said Ira Herzog, who lived in East Paterson/Elmwood Park from 1964 until 1984. "Always visible and accessible with encouraging words."
Mola was a delegate for Gerald Ford in 1976 and for Mitt Romney in 2012. A Trump delegate this year, he attended the RNC in Cleveland earlier this year with his wife, Geri.
"His natural political talents, I think, stemmed from his genuine respect for others and his DEEP love of his (our) town," Michael LaPorte, a former Elmwood Park councilman, told Daily Voice.
"While he was intensely proud to be called mayor for over 45 years, I know his real passion was being a husband and dad," LaPorte said. "The wonderful ladies in his life are an enduring tribute to the man he was, and Gerri, Stacey, Melissa and Jill have my deepest sympathies at this most difficult time."
It isn't only in Elmwood Park that he's already missed.
"As much as he was loved by his town, Mr Mola was loved by every child who walk through the door of Ridgefield Park High School," one of those students, Thomas McCarton, told Daily Voice.
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