BRICK – The Brick Township High School football community paid homage to one of its most beloved members.
They paid their respects to veteran freshman team coach Dominick Marino, who died April 14 at the age of 61 of natural causes, with a funeral procession past the Brick Township home of Marino and his family.
The procession which started at 1 p.m. at the Lake Riviera Middle School parking lot, consisted of an estimated 300 vehicles and lasted 17 minutes and 20 seconds filing past the home at 10 mph.
“This is amazing,” said Marino’s son, Tom, 28. who played for his dad. “In times like these (hit by the coronavirus pandemic), we could not ask for more support. Dad loved every family,” he added.
About a dozen family members gathered on the lawn and front porch of the family’s Arizona Drive home. Some even smoked cigars as the beloved Marino enjoyed a puff or two on a Macanudo Gold Label. Some wept while others enjoyed Johnnie Walker Blue, his favorite beverage.
Flowers adorned the lawn. The Brick Township Police Department and the New Jersey State Police – Marino’s daughter, Rachel, is a state police officer – provided escorts and assisted with traffic control.
“My dad meant a lot to everyone,” Marino said. “This shows how much of an effect my dad had on everybody. As the cars filed past our house, it definitely left us speechless. We could not do what we wanted to do to honor dad because of the virus, but people still came out and paid their respects. It’s tough. We’re doing the best we can with what we have.”
The procession consisted of numerous signs and banners. Several American flags were displayed. The soft, soothing sound of bagpipes emanated from one Jeep. One man told the family and its friends, “Love you guys,” from his vehicle. Several vehicles sported Dan Marino jerseys, generating memories of the former Miami Dolphins star quarterback.
Occupants of vehicles wore Brick football jerseys. Other occupants waved Brick jerseys outside windows. Some held Brick helmets. Lights flashed on the majority of the vehicles.
A donation to the family was tossed on the front lawn from a motor vehicle window.
Here are tributes from some of the vehicles:
“Coach Marino forever our coach and friend.”
“Coach Marino we love you.”
“Coach Marino until we meet again.”
“Rest in Peace Coach Marino.”
“I love you Marino family.”
“Coach Marino forever in our hearts.”
“You will be missed coach.”
“Coach mentor friend.”
“Pray for Coach Marino.”
“RIP Coach. Role model. Served the Lord.”
“We will never forget you Coach.”
“Coach mentor family. You will be missed.”
“RIP coach Marino. Always on the field and always in our hearts.”
“We are Brick.”
“We won’t forget you. Sorry for your loss. Thanks coach.”
“Coach Marino you will be missed.”
“Thank you Coach Marino.
“Coach Marino forever our coach and friend.”
Marino said his dad will be again honored in the future. The date and venue are to be announced.
“We will have a more formal service when the virus ends,” he said. “It will consist of the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey, the State Police and the Brick community in general.”
Marino is the third prominent member of the Green Dragons’ community to die in recent months. Coach Warren Wolf, who retired in 2008 as the state’s career wins leader before returning to coach the Lakewood Piners for the 2010 season, died Nov. 22 at the age of 92. Many of Marino’s former players competed under Wolf, whose wife, Peggy, passed away Dec. 20 at the age of 89. Marino often stood quietly on the sideline, beaming Brick Green Dragons Pride as his ex-athletes starred.
“Dad never stepped out of line,” Marino said. “He was very humble.”
Marino played several positions, including running back, for his dad.
“Not everyone gets the opportunity to play for their dad,” Marino said. “I would not want anyone else to have been my coach.”
Former Brick standout T.J. Ventorino played under Wolf and Marino.
“It’s so hard to lose such a great coach and friend,” Ventorino said of Marino on Facebook. “Too young, too soon. I thank his wife and kids for sharing this great man with us. We love you coach. It’s been a tough road for the Brick Dragons family. We bend, but we don’t break. The members of the Brick football family are always there for each other.”
Brick head coach Len Zdanowicz and Sharon Cantillo, a former Brick Township Board of Education member, were the event’s chief organizers. Zdanowicz said Marino expected a lot from the team.
“He was very demanding,” said Zdanowicz, who changed his Facebook cover photo to a picture of Marino. “He demanded a lot from the kids. He hugged the kids when he needed to. He screamed at the kids when he needed to. The kids loved to play for him. During practice, if a play was not executed correctly, Dom would tell the kids, ‘Run it again. Run it again.’ That’s what coach Wolf said and it stuck in all of our minds. Dom would never curse at the kids. Coach Wolf instilled that in all of us. When Dom was upset at the kids, he’d say, ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph.’ Dom was very religious.”
Zdanowicz said Marino spoke in a thick Hudson County accent similar to Wolf.
“His kids joked about his accent,” Zdanowicz said. “One thing I remember about him is he had his teams at his house for pizza after camps. He’d say, ‘C’mon over for pizza and soda.’ The kids joked about his accent.”
Marino made it a point to build good character among his players.
“He always said at this level it was about creating good men,” Zdanowicz said. “He was the first coach a lot of our boys had. He set the tone for our varsity teams and for a lot of the other teams in this building. He had some good teams, serving as our head freshman coach since around 2002 or 2003.”
Marino was the team’s head coach at the time of his death.
“Oh God,” Zdanowicz said. “We will miss him tremendously. There will be somebody who does his job, but he will not be replaced. He was a staple of our program for almost 30 years. His loss creates a major void in the Brick football community and the Brick Township High School community going forward.”
The mood of the program is somber.
“Our kids are hurting,” Zdanowicz said. “I send the kids group texts to see how they are doing. Their parents email me and tell me they are taking coach Marino’s death hard. It’s tough to deal with. You don’t get a full gauge of their mood as they are not in school because of the coronavirus pandemic.”
To hear Zdanowicz tell it, Marino was fun to be around off the field.
“After a game, he’d tell the coaching staff, including the varsity coaches, let’s all go out and have a drink and relax,” Zdanowicz said. “He was a great guy, fun loving. He was a guy you wanted to have either a drink or a cigar with at any time. He was a man’s man, a great all-around guy. He would drop anything right away to come over and help you.”
Marino coached football at North Bergen High School before joining Wolf’s staff in 1992. At the time of his death, Marino was president of the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey (PFANJ). He was a member of the American Burn Association (ABA), the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), the ABA IAFF Special Interest Group, the Burn Advisory Board, committee chairman of the 5-Alarm-5K Race/Walk and a liaison to the Valor Awards Committee at St. Barnabas.
Marino began his career in 1986 as a firefighter in the North Bergen Fire Department, which became North Hudson Fire Rescue in 1999. He retired from active duty in 2010.
“Dominick Marino didn’t just run into burning buildings,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement. “He knocked down walls to protect his fellow firefighters. He put his heart and soul into everything he did for his members and in doing so he exemplified everything you could ever want from a leader. I will miss his friendship and good counsel and his regular check-ins, including this week. He was one of a kind. My deepest condolences go out to his family, his members and the entire New Jersey firefighting community.”
In a statement, PFANJ general president Harold Schaitberger and acting president Steve McConlogue praised Marino.
“Brother Marino was a great union leader who I was proud to also call a friend,” Schaitberger said. “With Dom at the helm, his members were always rest assured that he would continue to fight with everything he had for better occupational disease protections, working conditions and benefits. Our thoughts and prayers are with all PFANJ members and Marino’s family.”
McConlogue said Marino played a large role in getting the Thomas P. Canzanella 21st Century First Responders Protection Act into law in July of 2019. The law, named for Marino’s predecessor, reformed New Jersey’s workers’ compensation law to create a rebuttable presumption of coverage for public safety workers for certain illnesses, most notably cancer.
“It was one of his proudest moments as president,” McConlogue said in a statement. “It gave us all an added layer of protection if we got sick on the job.”
The PFANJ, which had several members in the procession, said it plans to honor Marino’s memory.
“We are unable to give Dom the proper sendoff he deserves right now because of the pandemic,” it said on its Facebook page, “but rest assured that a fitting memorial service will be carried out once we return to some sense of normalcy.”
Marino molded his players into better athletes and people, according to his obituary on legacy.com. He took those players under his wing, acting as a mentor and role model even after the season was over.
He loved cooking and hosting large gatherings that included backyard parties in the summer and celebrating Christmas every year at his home with as many relatives as he could. His favorite family activities included a nice dinner with his wife, Ellen; enjoying a good scotch and cigar with his son, Tom; traveling with his daughter, Rachel, and spending summer days by the pool with his daughter, Amy, and granddaughters.
Lacey Township coach Mike Watson said he enjoyed competing against the Green Dragons. Watson’s teams opposed the Green Dragons from 2006-18.
“I loved coaching against him,” Watson said on Facebook. “His teams were always tough, prepared and disciplined. He ran his freshman teams as if they were varsity teams. In fact, how your team did was a true measure of how your freshman team was doing. Off the field, he was always willing to help you get better. He will be missed and I regret not being able to compete against him again. God bless. I think we may have beaten his team once. His teams were always well coached.”
“Words cannot describe how shocked and devastated I am,” friend Joseph Aulisi said on Facebook. “Such a great guy and tremendous coach who cared about his players and made them men. Going to miss you, Coach. Rest In Peace.”
Ex-Brick player Mike Kleissler praised Marino.
“He was a class through and through,” Kleissler said on Facebook. “I was just getting to know him. God bless his family. Thank God for the impact he established on and off the field of play,” Klessler said.