WOHS honors beloved coach during season opener

WEST ORANGE, NJ — On Oct. 2, prior to the start of West Orange High School football’s season opener, beloved track coach Joe Suriano was honored and his family recognized by Athletic Director Ron Bligh, WOHS Principal Hayden Moore, Superintendent Scott Cascone, and board members Ken Alper, Terry Triggs-Scales and Cheryl Merklinger. Suriano died in April from COVID-19.

Standing center field in Joe Suriano Stadium, the coach’s wife, Marlene Suriano, stood tearfully by, along with her two daughters and two granddaughters, listening to the tribute. Joe Suriano’s daughters, Nicole and Stephanie, have continued their father’s legacy as educators in the West Orange schools. In addition to coaching the track team, Joe Suriano was an English teacher at WOHS for 46 years.

Gov. Phil Murphy also remembered Joe Suriano in a Sept. 18 broadcasted tribute. 

“This guy by all accounts was a legend. We remember a West Orange guy through and through, the legend, Joseph ‘Joe’ Suriano, who was a longtime English teacher and track coach at West Orange High. That he ended up there is no mystery. Joe was a West Orange native, a state high school track champion in the 100 meters and an All-American in college. He started his teaching career at West Orange High in 1969 and would remain a fixture there for a few years — 46 in fact — retiring in January of 2016.

“For his commitment to his students, he was named Teacher of the Year not once or twice, but three times and, as a coach, his West Orange Mountaineers track and field teams won a total of seven league championships, and he earned All-Area Coach of the Year honors an amazing 16 times, League Coach of the Year eight times, twice recognized as Essex County Coach of the Year. He coached five athletes who would go on to garner All-American status, and three who met Olympic-qualifying standards. For all of this, there is little wonder that the track and football field at West Orange High was dedicated as Suriano Stadium in his honor. His legacy will also live on through the Suriano family scholarship.

“When he retired, one of his colleagues said Joe was, and I quote him, ‘A rich man in every way it matters.’ And for Joe, even more than his students, that wealth was measured in his love for his family.”