Today, New Jersey said goodbye to Dr. David Rebovich, who is remembered as a shrewd, influential political analyst who knew just about everyone in state politics. But more than anything, if today’s funeral is any indication, Rebovich will be remembered as a teacher.
The appearance of Gov. Corzine, who Rebovich criticized in his final column, was testament to just how serious Rebovich’s following was amongst Trenton’s political elite. Corzine had earlier issued an official proclamation saluting Rebovich for his “profound impact on politics” and as “unafraid to criticize aspects of the political system” while maintaining faith in it.
On his way out of the funeral, Corzine reminisced briefly about beginning his political career and meeting Rebovich.
“I remember him organizing debates and town hall meetings that put the fear of God in me,” said Corzine. “But above everything, I remember him as a true gentleman.”
But perhaps the most visible presence at Rebovich’s funeral weren’t big name politicians, but this students, five of whom acted as pallbearers.
Jonathan Chebra, aa junior Political Science major at Rider University, was enrolled in Political Campaigns class with Rebovich. Although Chebra was already a political junky, he said Rebovich’s clarity, sense of humor and easy-going manner got less politically-inclined students more interested in the subject.
“He really brought everything to life. You came into class and you didn’t need the syllabus,” said Chebra, who was one of the mourners. “He was, in some ways, the political science department. He was always the one to bring in the big names, and you saw it here with Corzine.”
Indeed, it appeared Rebovich had taken up teaching long before getting a doctorate — among the pictures displayed at the funeral was one from the Perth Amboy High School 1964 yearbook, featuring a teenaged Rebovich working as the sports editor for the school newspaper. Seated at a typewriter, Rebovich had a small crowd around him, who the caption described as devotees of the finer points of sports writing by Rebovich.
Rebovich had a way with youth, said some of his mourners. His cousin, Michael Rebovich, said that David was a favorite uncle to his 16-year-old daughter because he would sit down and engage her in conversation at family functions, when most other relatives didn’t go beyond formalities.
After the funeral procession wound its way through Woodbridge and into the gritty, industrial streets of Rebovich’s home town of Perth Amboy, Father David Baratelli presided over the funeral rites.
“He was not just a teacher. He was a mentor,” said Baratelli in the liturgy. “He was someone who cared about his students, and that was the perfection of what a teacher should be.”
Among the student pallbearers was Nick Ballasy, a senior at Rider. Ballasy echoed the sentiment about Rebovich being a great teacher, and was looking forward to moderating a debate between Rider’s Democratic and Republican clubs with him tomorrow. The debate has been postponed, and and a campus memorial service for Rebovich will be held instead at 11:45 am in the Cavalla Room at the Bart Luedeke Center
“He was just always easy to relate to,” said Ballasy. “He said ‘Nicky, it’s going to be tremendous – you and me up on stage.’”