IRVINGTON, NJ —
The funeral for Ronald Alston, founder of the My Father Knows Best nonprofit organization was Friday, March 4, at Christian Pentecostal Church on Clinton Avenue in Irvington. The charity has hosted annual back-to-school backpack and school supply giveaways in addition to other events to help needy families in Irvington, East Orange, Newark and other cities.
According to his surviving relatives, Alston died Monday, Feb. 29, at Beth Israel Hospital. Hundreds gathered at the church to bid farewell to the man who believed he could make a positive impact on the lives of families and felt community didn’t have to be limited to just one town.
“God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things,” said a member of the Newark-based Enough Is Enough activist organization, who spoke at Alston’s funeral. “Ron is a winner because he changed so many lives for the better. He was a fighter. He was a quiet guy, but he was kind of crazy, but in a good way.”
Alston was remembered as being an honorary Enough Is Enough member during his lifetime, based on the strength of the good works he did throughout the area. Irvington Board of Education member Ron Brown agreed that Alston was crazy when it came to helping children and families in need wherever and whenever he could.
“Thirty-five years ago, a young boy came into my barbershop in Hooterville and asked if he could get a job cutting hair and I asked him if he knew how to cut hair and he said, ‘yes’ and I said, ‘get out of here,’” said Brown on Friday, March 4. “He was quiet but, like the brother said, he was crazy. He turned his life around from being a knucklehead and a thug to being the unofficial mayor of Irvington. So I had to come today and talk about the boy who came into my barbershop 35 years ago.”
Local community activist Earl Best agreed Alston was as influential in the communities My Father Knows Best served as any elected official, and said his friend probably did more good for the people in those communities than most of the politicians who claimed to represent them.
“I hope that, when I come back up here, there will be a street named after him,” said Best, who now works in Newark Mayor Ras Baraka’s administration.
Professor Leonard Jeffries was also Alston’s friend and a frequent guest of honor and featured speaker at My Father Knows Best events. Jeffries said renaming a street in Alston’s honor would be nice, but he said he would prefer creating an ongoing lecture series specifically designed to keep his legacy alive.
“If the pastor can let us use this church, we can start the Ron Alston Lecture Series,” said Jeffries on Friday, March 4.
Pastor Bartley presided over the funeral and gave a short sermon near the end of it, but before that, he seized on Jeffries’ statement and asked all in attendance to make a donation to be used to start the suggested lecture series.
“Faith without works is dead,” said Bartley on Friday, March 4. “Before I come, you all have already eulogized him.”
Irvington NAACP Vice President Kathleen Witcher, a retired Newark teacher who taught Alston, said the thing that always stood out about him was the fact that, “he gave me more assignments than I gave him.”
“Except for his health failing, he wanted to put his hat in the ring to run for elected office this time,” said Witcher on Tuesday, March 8. “I told him he should run for a district leader’s seat, because his health wasn’t too good, and he had agreed to that. But I remember that day that I saw him last. He wasn’t looking too good, but he said he still had a lot of work to do and, now that he’s gone, it’s up to us to carry on with all the things that he still wanted to do for the community and all of the people in it.”
East Orange City Council Chairman Ted Green a lifelong friend and colleague of Alston, said he will always remember him: “Ron would text me at 4:30 in the morning and tell me, ‘Tamir, when you get up in the morning, call me.’ Or this one time when he called me and asked if I was doing a book bag giveaway and I said, ‘yeah,’ and he said, ‘I’m going to bring you some book bags and I’m thinking that he was going to come with 30 to 40 book bags, but he came with two truckloads and I’ve still got that stuff in my basement,” said Green on Friday, March 4.
“We all have a responsibility. We all have to be the village now. Ron shared all his love and opportunities to give and give and give and now it’s up to us to give back to his family and the community that was his extended family, because he’s not here anymore to do it. He will be missed.”