At vigil for superintendent Steven Mayer: ‘Robbinsville’s never going to be the same’
ROBBINSVILLE — Jeannie Nalbone wasn't close to Steven Mayer. They weren't related. They weren't dear friends.
Nalbone is the parent of a first-grader at Sharon Elementary. She'd only gotten to know Mayer, Robbinsville's superintendent, through PTA meetings.
But that was enough, she said, to learn what kind of man he was.
"It's hard for me, and I'm not family," Nalbone said, fighting back tears. "I'm a parent and he indirectly affected my son in a positive way, and for me it was a wonderful experience just to get to know him and hear him."
Nalbone spoke to New Jersey 101.5 Tuesday night at an emotional, somber candlelight vigil that capped off a long, difficult day for the Robbinsville community — as it mourned Mayer, who was struck and killed by a vehicle while on a jog with his dog early Tuesday morning.
The accident had occurred on Robbinsville Edinburg Road, near the district's high school, at approximately 6:12 a.m. The driver was a 17-year-old female, a senior in the district.
From elementary school students to high school graduates to state legislators, a crowd estimated to reach the thousands gathered in Foxmoor Community Park Tuesday evening.
Following words from Mayor Dave Fried and school board president Matthew T. O'Grady, as well as local religious leaders, the community surrounded the park's gazebo to share memories of and kind words about Mayer, who's had the superintendent position since 2009.
"He was a part of this community; he made Robbinsvile what it is and clearly he's touched so many people," Sofia Maslak, a Robbinsville High School junior, told New Jersey 101.5. "Robbinsville's never going to be the same. He was the face of Robbinsville."
Mourners agreed Mayer was not the typical superintendent. He would show an interest in students' lives. He'd know your name, give you a high five in the hallway, and show up at many school events, big and small.
"You just never were another student," said Bruce Sapp, 21, who graduated from the high school in 2013. "He made sure he knew who you were, what you had going on, and if you needed help, he was there."
And sometimes that help reached beyond school property.
Lifelong resident Denise Keating, who currently has two sons in the school system, said Mayer was a huge reason her family managed to make it through recent financial issues.
"He helped us keep the kids in the district until we got housing," she said.
Dozens of bouquets and gifts lined a walkway in the center of the park, and visitors packed a container with handwritten notes for the Mayer family. He leaves behind three sons and a wife, who's a fourth-grade teacher in the district.
"This day changed two families forever," Fried said at the vigil, showing support as well for the driver who struck Mayer while on her way to the school.
No charges have been filed in the matter. Earlier in the day, Fried said the site of the tragic accident was a "dangerous road."