TOMS RIVER – Roden Lightbody, who served in political and community circles for decades, was remembered by those who knew him as a tireless advocate for children and youth.
Lightbody was on the Township Committee from 1982 through 1993. During that time, one committee member a year would be picked to be mayor. Lightbody had been given the honor in 1985 and 1988.
As a politician in Toms River, as an engineer working for the county, and while playing Santa Claus for the fire department, much of his work revolved around making things better for children in Ocean County, said those who knew him.
“Every year, he used to take off from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving until after January first, the whole month of December, to be Santa Claus,” said Toms River Councilman Brian Kubiel, Lightbody’s son-in-law. “He never actually went on vacation. That’s how he spent his vacation.”
It wasn’t just in winter, either. He used to do a Christmas in July visit to sick children who might not make it to Christmas, Kubiel added.
“All volunteers knew Roden,” said Freeholder Director Joseph Vicari, who also served as mayor during Lightbody’s tenure on the governing body.
As the county’s traffic safety engineer, he put in 50 years helping people in town, he said. His principal concerns were child safety and bus safety. It was his mandate to make sure the public is told to trim trees and bring barking dogs inside that might cause children walking to school to leave the sidewalk and go in the street.
“He knew every road and every traffic signal,” he said.
His roots were deep in Toms River, graduating from the original high school here.
“He was born for working with people,” he said. “When people think of politics in Toms River, they think of Roden.”
“I knew Roden since when I was in high school,” said Toms River Clerk J. Mark Mutter, who was also a mayor. “His dedication to our town was just infectious. It was positive and inspiring.”