Patricia Marie Gillen, honored by Bishop Seratelli for service at St. Joseph Church, dies at 81

Crowd at her funeral reflected community affection.

| 04 Apr 2022 | 08:47

By Ann Genader

Patricia Marie (Ryan) Gillen, of Echo Lake, volunteered so often at St. Joseph Parochial School in the Township’s Echo Lake community that people assumed she was part of the school staff. The combined efforts of “Pat” and her husband Peter Gillen to do things for the community and its residents over many decades were so visible that, in 2019, Bishop Arthur Serratelli, of the Catholic Diocese of Paterson, presented the couple with a Vivere Christus Est award in a ceremony at Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Paterson. Pat died peacefully at home on March 28.

The love people felt for this woman, her husband and family, was obvious on April 1, when an estimated 150 people went to Morrison’s Funeral Home, in Butler, to pay their respects. Pat was known for her unwavering love and kind heart. When the funeral home parking lot was quickly filled, drivers parked for a long distance along both sides of Bartholdi Ave. and on adjacent streets. Following a Mass for Pat at St. Joseph Church on April 2, she was laid to rest in the church cemetery.

Pat and Pete had a 53-year marriage that they said was based on the Christian values that they grew up with. They were proud of the certificate of honor and brass medal embossed with a diocesan crest that the bishop presented to them.

Pete served as an usher at church services after the late Rev. Cornelius Kelly appointed him in the 1950s. He was elected as a West Milford councilman for four terms (1975-1987) and worked for over 50 years as a crane operator in New York City (1955-2005). His projects included the World Trade Center and lower level of the George Washington Bridge (1959-60). He was a special police officer for 25 years (1968-1993) and dean of the Passaic County Democratic Committee (55 years) 1964-2019.

Pat didn’t care much for politics and some of the mean things that politicians sometimes did, but she was always there in the background supporting her husband;s efforts and goals. Born to John and Helen Ryan in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY, on Feb. 26, 1941, Pat was a secretary on Wall Street for International Nickel Company before marrying Pete. The wedding was at her church in Brooklyn in 1968. The couple met when Pat vacationed “in the country” where Pete happened to be a native.

Pat was the idealistic example of a homemaker, dedicating her life to caring for her husband, children, church and school. Friends recall seeing her seated at the kitchen table every day after school, directing and aiding her children as they did their homework. Pat always prepared a home cooked dinner for her family.

The family connections to their Irish heritage run deep. The couple passed on their Catholic teachings that were handed down to them from past generations. The Gillen and Ryan Irish ancestry connects with the Slegvin, O’Donnel and Delaney families and others. They were patriotic, and Pete, as a young man, served in the Army with overseas assignments in the Passaic area as an assistant to US Army Chaplain priests.

Survived by her husband Pete, Pat also leaves their beloved children Peter J. Gillen III (P.J.) and fiancé Heather McCracken, of Barry Lakes, daughter Mary Ellen Gillen, of West Milford, and son Ryan Gillen, of West Milford. A daughter Patricia Ann Gillen died at an early age. Pat is also survived by her sister Carol Ann Crusi of Central Islip, NY. Her sister Maureen Looney of Wilmington Delaware predeceased her.