Ridgewood High School is currently reeling from the loss of Mr. Basil Pizzuto, Assistant Principal and a beloved leader of the community. In the aftermath of the death of a loved one, it’s often hard to know what to feel or what to do. The first reaction is often shock, and that’s how many RHS students and staff currently feel. Mr. Pizzuto was a constant presence in the hallways, at school events, and in the lives of his students and colleagues. The kind and accessible spirit he was, it is natural that grief should follow. RHS may mourn his absence, the larger-than-life hole in the community, for a long while. In this particular article, however, I seek not to define or report on the tragedy of Mr. Pizzuto’s death, but on the miracle of his life and his service to our school.
Mr. Pizzuto began his life at Ridgewood High School in 1998, and has helped steer the school through countless changes, overwhelming obstacles, and spectacular surprises until his passing. He impacted the lives of many generations of students, and many of his fellow teachers regarded him as not only a colleague but also a true friend. In fact, only a few days before Thanksgiving break, Mr. Cronk shared with his students Mr. Pizzuto’s life outside of RHS as a gifted organist and church musician. Not only was Mr. Pizzuto an Assistant Principal and a musician, but he also spent his time as a volunteer firefighter Saddle Brook for almost three decades.
Mr. Pizzuto was truly an embodiment of the very motto of RHS: “A Tradition of Excellence.” An amazing spirit, he demonstrated unyielding dedication and an incomprehensible appreciation for the student body and staff. These qualities shone even beyond RHS, as evidenced in his roles as a heroic non-paid fighter and an active church member. He showed up to help others every day, chatting with high schoolers in his office about school life, laughing with his church’s choir, and rescuing a puppy from a burning home. He exhibited an unfailing dedication to that service even in the face of challenges as terrifying as a raging fire. As an educator, he would want us to learn from his example.
Mr. Pizzuto would encourage all those reading to help however they can. Lend time and energy to lifting up the human spirit, as Mr. Pizzuto spent his life doing. Is there a friend in need of conversation about a certain issue? A relative that has become distant? A local recycling group looking for help? An animal shelter in need of volunteers? Or perhaps, there is opportunity in RHS. Is there an underclassman you can help with homework? A classmate that needs motivation, inspiration, or support? A teacher that could use with some gratitude?
With the loss of Mr. Pizzuto, we have lost his special presence of humor, patience, enthusiasm, and love. However, we have not lost the qualities that he embodies. They live on in his school, his church, his fire department, and his community. The best form of commemoration is preserving and strengthening the characteristics that Basil Pizzuto exhibited so that his spirit of goodness lives on.
“Death cannot kill what never dies.” – William Penn
RHS Staff Writer
Graphic: Sunny Rhew