Newlweds Jared Petruska, 35, and his wife, Maria, were joyously awaiting the birth of their first child.
Now friends, loved ones and members of the racing community are amassing donations for the soon-to-be-newborn.
Jared’s father and brother were at the site of a water line being installed for the Society Hill Development off Route 440 when the trench collapsed on him on Feb. 27, authorities said.
It took about five hours to get him out, they said.
Word of the tragedy spread quickly -- not just among friends, loved ones and colleagues but throughout the stock car community, as well.
Jared was crew chief for Atlas Paving's #66, “an iconic car which saw some of the best drivers that have ever strapped themselves into a modified behind the wheel,” Ken Bruce wrote on DirtTrackDigest.com. “Drivers such as Stewart Friesen, Duane Howard, Bobby Varin, Danny Johnson, Ryan Godown and most recently Tim McCreadie, just to name a few, have wheeled the legendary car to many many wins over the years.”
Bruce said he often sought out Jared as he waited to interview drivers outside the hauler, “and it wasn’t always about racing but about life in general.
“I will miss those days, but my missing him pales in comparison to the hurt and gut-wrenching agony his family is feeling,” he wrote. “Jared was in a good place in his life…and I knew the excitement he must’ve been feeling"with a baby on the way.
“It’s hard to lose anyone regardless of their age but when you lose someone at such a young age with so much ahead of them and so suddenly it just hurts that much more,” Bruce added.
“This handsome young man was the ‘Crown Prince’ of his family, extremely hard-working and so full of life,” uncle Thomas Lanza of Wayne wrote, adding that he “touched so many lives in everything [he] did.”
A lifelong Wayne resident, Jared was graduated from Wayne Hills High School in 2004. He was a member of the Wayne Hills Golf Team that won a state championship and worked alongside his father for several years, according to his obituary.
“He was a natural leader, and this showed most strongly when he became crew chief of the Atlas Paving #66 racing team,” the obituary says. “Jared loved dirt modified car racing and followed in his father’s footsteps.
“He led the #66 team to several victories, but he especially loved the camaraderie among all those in the racing community.”
Family members said they were grateful for the love and support from the racing community after his death.
“Jared had two sides to his personality,” the obit says. “If you knew him primarily through work or racing, then you knew the ‘stoic tough guy.’ His close friends and family also knew the softer, caring side of Jared.
“He had a HUGE heart and worried about everyone. He showed his caring through kind, selfless acts and he always felt good doing nice things for others.”
He had a soft spot for dogs. His favorite of his and his wife’s three was a Gatsby, a Weimaraner whom he often referred to as “my son.”
Jared met Maria Imbruglia) at Giants Stadium on Dec. 1, 2007.
She was a cheerleader for the Wayne Valley High School football team, which was competing for a state title against Jared’s alma mater.
His mother, who knew Maria, introduced them and they began dating soon after.
Ten years later, he proposed.
Jared and Maria were wed last May at Our Lady of the Valley Church in Wayne, then honeymooned in Hawaii and Australia.
Donations for their unborn boy can be made to “Maria Petruska” c/o Vander May Funeral Home, 567 Ratzer Rd., Wayne, NJ 07470.
Ridgefield Deputy Police Chief Robert Meurer has known the Petruska family “pretty much my entire life….Awesome people, family, and friends.
“We are all completely devastated,” Meurer said. “Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers at this time of loss. May God bless them in this time of sorrow and may he rest in peace.”
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