MANALAPAN — Construction on a memorial that will honor a beloved educator is nearing completion at the Manalapan-Englishtown Middle School, Millhurst Road.
Earlier this year, administrators in the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District announced plans to honor Robert Williams, 63, who died on Jan. 21. Williams was the longtime principal of MEMS.
In comments provided to the News Transcript, current MEMS Principal Michael Fiorillo said, “In January, the Manalapan-Englishtown community was devastated by the passing of our former principal, Robert Williams.
“Mr. Williams died of neuroendocrine cancer, a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Mr. Williams served as an assistant principal and principal for MEMS from 1994 to 2020. Rob was the face of MEMS for 26 years.
“In that time the staff he hired, the students he helped and the culture he fostered became his enduring legacy. Rob’s presence filled up the room and his friendship, humor and leadership are missed by everyone who knew him,” Fiorillo said.
“The Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District is currently completing a memorial for Mr. Williams at MEMS. The location for the memorial will be around the flagpole at the front entrance to the school.
“Rob had a strong sense of patriotism and love of country and we felt placing his memorial there was very fitting.
“In addition to being a focal point at our school’s entrance, this memorial garden will be a usable outdoor classroom for MEMS students to enjoy for decades to come. Through this space Mr. Williams’ legacy will continue to be tied to MEMS students,” Fiorillo said.
The principal said construction on the memorial began in August and is nearing completion.
He said the memorial would not have been possible without very generous donations from Pantano Nursery and Landscape Supply; Creative Design and Maintenance, LLC; the Foundation for Manalapan-Englishtown Regional Schools; Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District staff; and MEMS Boosters.
“We are planning on a dedication ceremony on Nov. 1. The school boosters are currently collecting funds to finalize the finishing touches such as tables, seating, plaques and the continued upkeep of the memorial,” Fiorillo said.
Contributions may be sent via cash, check (made out to MEMS Booster Club) or Venmo @memsboosterclub to the MEMS Booster Club, 155 Millhurst Road, Manalapan, NJ 07726.
According to an obituary posted online by the O’Brien Funeral Home, Brick Township, Williams was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroendocrine cancer in 2020. The obituary stated the disease is a rare and aggressive cancer with a 0% chance of survival.
Williams began his career in education as a seventh grade science teacher in Barnegat. He joined the Manalapan-Englishtown district in 1994 as an assistant principal and became a principal in 2001. He remained a principal until he retired in January 2020.
Following Williams’ passing, Superintendent of Schools Nicole Santora said the principal “was a leader, a mentor, a role model and one of the best people you have ever known. Mr. Williams earned the trust and respect of all who came into contact with him. … (He) “was an amazing person who formed deep relationships and bonds with everyone he met.”
Upon Williams’ passing, Board of Education President Brian Graime said, “If there was a one-of-a-kind role model you want leading a school, it was Mr. Williams. He was truly that person everyone in our district looked up to. He mentored so many staff members, while being a focal point for our students’ achievement. … The Manalapan-Englishtown community was lucky to have Mr. Williams in our lives for so long.”