John Pacifico 1927-2019
Basilone Parade Chairman
by Bruce Doorly
Raritan lost a great man when longtime Basilone Parade Chairman John Pacifico passed away on June 28th in his home at the age of 91.

This author was honored to have served with him on the Parade Committee.
John Pacifico was the ideal chairman of Raritan’s annual parade. He was born in the family home at 13 Doughty Street in Raritan in 1927. As a young teenager during World War II he experienced life on the home front. He along with all others followed the news reports to track the ongoing progress in the War. They mourned and prayed as the list of local boys who died in the war never seemed to end.

The Pacifico family had much to worry about as John’s brother Vincent was away from home serving in the army and would join the fight by the end of the War. John kept the Raritan soldiers well informed of the town’s personal news by writing detailed letters to many of them. Years later, they would express their appreciation for this service that connected them to friends and family.
John Pacifico remembered when it was first announced that a hometown guy John Basilone was awarded The Congressional Medal of Honor.

When Raritan held a “Welcome Home” parade for Basilone in September of 1943 Pacifico was there.
He would serve in the military himself when he joined the army in 1950 – serving till 1952.
John Pacifico joined the Basilone Parade Committee in 1985 and became the chairman in 1987. He fostered its growth from a small one day event into a weekend affair.

He increased the number of units that were marching and he especially wanted there to be plenty of bands in the parade. This way when the music drifted away there would be more music coming along. Under his leadership the number of bands increased from just a couple to a dozen. With more units and more music, more people attended the parade.
Another big addition he made was to hold a concert on the Saturday night before the parade. It usually featured a military band such as the Quantico Marine Band. These concerts were held for over 20 years at the Raritan Valley Theatre. For many years all one thousand concert seats would be filled. A ticket was hard to come by.

In recent years, due to the aging of the World War II generation, the once valued concert has been discontinued.
At all the events on Basilone weekend, the Saturday concert, the parade itself, and the ceremony after the parade, John Pacifico was the Master of Ceremonies.

He was always impeccably dressed in a suit and he spoke with a passion about the heroics of John Basilone. He made sure to thank all those for their contributions.
John Pacifico played the managing role in other patriotic activities in Raritan. He was the voice of Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day services that were held in front of the Municipal Building and in recent years at the Memorial Park.

When Raritan’s “Wall of Heroes” was unveiled, Pacifico was the gracious host.
John’s chairmanship of the parade was never challenged; he was so dedicated, caring, and competent that the committee members never even considered having another chairman.

He gave everyone a say as at the end of each meeting he would go around the room to give each committee member a chance to have input.
When necessary, John could be firm. This author recalls one instance when I was new to the committee and had a bit too much unchecked enthusiasm. As one meeting was beginning John seemed annoyed. He started by stating “before we do anything, I must bring attention that there has been a violation of one of the sacred rules of this town and parade”. I listened intensely wondering what had happened. He then held up a political brochure – one that I had done for a candidate in the upcoming election. I had put some Basilone related accomplishments in that brochure with a photo of Basilone. John said correctly that the brochure appeared to have been designed by me. (I always used certain fonts and background colors.) He tactfully explained that this cannot happen again as the rule in town was that “Basilone stays out of politics !” I apologized to him and the committee. He did not mention it again and I obeyed the sacred rule thereafter.
His involvement in his community was vast and amazing. It started when he was very young as he was an altar boy at St. Ann’s Church.

He served for 30 years on Raritan Recreation with ten of those as the chairman. He was on numerous committees - often as the leader.

He was a Deacon at St. Ann’s Church for over 40 years contributing to baptisms, weddings, funerals, and was always present at church services and functions. To John, this was his most important mission. Parishioners were always appreciative of his contributions. Many families approached him to give eulogies since he had a personal and vested knowledge of the deceased.
For “The Breeze” John Pacifico was often a vital (uncredited) source for many of the articles about local history.

He was the “historical consultant” for two books on Raritan – “The John Basilone Story” and “Raritan’s Finest Hour – The Story of Raritan During World War II”.
A dedicated family man he married Dorothy Hoffman in 1958. They were married for 58 years until her death in 2017. They had two children - John Jr. and Jean.

He loved his hometown of Raritan. On his final day he seemed to know that the end was near so he had his daughter drive him around town. They drove by the houses where John’s best friends once lived. Their final stop was at the Basilone Statue.
His longtime friend Peter Vitelli says of him: “John Pacifico was the epitome in all facets of leadership ”

Father John Rozembajgier, priest at St. Ann’s in Raritan, said “As proclaimed in MICAH 6:8 Deacon John chose to walk with the Lord and in his relationships with others aspired to do what was right and good.”
John Pacifico was a big baseball fan. At the funeral service in the church Father John introduced a Yankee Hat that was made in memory of John Pacifico. It said on the front “Hats off to Deacon John” and on the back it said “MICAH 6:8” A verse from the bible. When one looks that up it says: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” A fitting passage. Dozens of hats were given out to family and friends.
The funeral procession which left from St. Ann’s Church would first stop at his childhood home where John’s children put a Raritan baseball cap on the steps. Then they stopped at the Basilone Statue where a Basilone Hat was placed. Finally they stopped at John’s home at 256 Weiss Terrace where they left his baseball glove and a Yankee cap.

John Pacifico will be missed.