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obituaries

Services Set For Athletic Director From Rockland Who Changed Lives

Beloved North Jersey athletic coach and director James “Topper” Grasso died on Aug. 10 after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer.
Beloved North Jersey athletic coach and director James “Topper” Grasso died on Aug. 10 after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. Photo Credit: Contributed

Beloved North Jersey athletic coach and director James "Jim" Grasso died on Aug. 10 after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer.

Visitation is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 19 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Vander Plaat Funeral Home in Wyckoff. A Funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 20 at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel RC Church in Ridgewood.

Interment will follow at George Washington Memorial Park Cemetery.

Affectionately known as "Topper," James was born in Suffern and was a longtime resident of Ridgewood. He graduated from Franklin & Marshall College where he played four years of football and joined the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity.

Following graduation, he taught middle school social studies, proudly coached football, basketball, and track and field for the Ridgewood Public School District. In 2000, his career veered toward athletic administration, serving as the athletic director in Paramus and Northern Valley Demarest. He finished his career in the Ramsey Public School District where he pioneered.

Throughout his years as athletic director he held leadership posts in the NNJIL, NBIAL and Big North Conference. He served as president of the Bergen County Coaches Association, the first executive director of the Big North Conference, track and field administrator for the Big North, and as a member of the Executive Committee and Scheduling Coordinator until his retirement in 2018. He also served as divisional commissioner for the Super Football Conference.

James was an avid sports fan supporting the Green Bay Packers, New York Yankees, Syracuse Basketball and Penn State Football. While at home, his greatest pleasure was spending time with his family and friends and enjoying college sports. His greatest love was attending his children’s athletic and personal events. One of James' greatest gifts to his family, students, coaches and friends was his profound interest in improving their lives through caring, guidance and thoughtful encouragement.

He is survived by his wife, Laura M. Grasso; children Anna M., Meghan E. and Joseph J. Grasso; his mother, Belle Grasso; brother Greg; his father and mother-in-law, Gerald and Eleanor Davina.

James was predeceased by his father, Joseph Grasso.

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