Retired Superior Court Judge Thomas R. Rumana, a former Wayne Council President and the father of former Assemblyman Scott Rumana, died on Saturday. He was 95.
He became a candidate for the Wayne Township Council in 1969 when local Republicans picked Council President Raymond Tumminello to challenge incumbent Mayor Edward Sisco in the GOP mayoral primary. Rumana was chose to run on Tumminello’ s ticket.
Tumminello defeated Sisco, who was also a sitting State Senator, in the Republican primary by a 62%-35% margin. Rumana defeated incumbent Councilman Carter Gardner, who ran on the Sisco line, by about 1,100 votes.
Wayne Republicans never united behind Tumminello and Newton Miller, a Republican who served on the Board of Education, ran as an independent mayoral candidate.
Miller beat Tumminello and Democrat Walter Hoffman, in the general election, but the Republican council candidates prevailed.
Rumana finished third in a race for three council seats, defeating Wayne Democratic Municipal Chairman Ernest Scheidemann by less than 50 votes.
In January 1970, Rumana became Council President. He also assumed the role of peacemaker, charged with bringing the feuding factions of the local GOP together. As part of that quest, Republican Municipal Chairman Vincent Rinaldo resigned.
The GOP infighting continued into 1971, Rumana had initially said he would not seek a second term as council president. The battle to replace him by the 5-4 Republican majority between Councilmen Leonard Pine and Edward Feddema went 14 ballots before Rumana agreed to stay on.
Passaic Republicans sought to rebuild their slate of candidates for the 1971 general election.
Sisco had died in office in early 1971 at age 47, one week after suffering a stroke. His death came about a month before the filing deadline.
State Sens. Ira Schoem (R-Clifton) and Frank Sciro announced they would not seek re-election to second terms.
Schoem, 60, a former Clifton Councilman and Passaic County Freeholder, was dealing with cardiac issues. Sciro, 63, also announced he would retire after 29 years as the Paterson City Clerk.
Wayne Republicans pushed for Assemblyman John Evers (R-Wayne) to get one of the Senate seats, and suggested Rumana for one of Passaic County’s State Assembly seats.
The Passaic GOP didn’t pick Evers, who then ran for re-election to the Assembly. That effectively blocked Rumana from moving up. Evers won, but Democrats took all three Passaic County Senate seats that year.
In the 1971 election, Miller backed independent candidates for the Wayne council in five of six wards. Democrats won all five of those seats.
Democrats were split as well, and Rumana won a third term as council president by a 6-3 votes, forging a coalition of three Republicans and three Democrats.
Gov. William Cahill nominated Rumana to serve as a Passaic County Court Judge. He served on the bench for more than eighteen years before his retirement in 1991.
Rumana was the son of a Turkish immigrant who operated a barbershop on Main Street in Paterson.
He served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Assigned to General George Patton’s 3rd Army, he landed on the beaches of Normandy a few days after D-day. He was a graduate of Rutgers University and Dickinson College Law School.
Rumana public career began in 1953 when Mayor Lester Titus appointed him to the Paterson Free Public Library Board of Trustees. Titus later named him Deputy Treasurer for the City of Paterson. He served as assistant financial secretary of the Passaic County Republican League, Men’s Division.
His son, Scott, served as a Passaic County Freeholder, Assemblyman, and Passaic County Republican Chairman before becoming a Superior Court Judge in 2016. Thomas Rumana swore his son in.
Rumana is also survived by his wife of 59 years, Marilyn, his daughter-in-law, Laura, and his grandson, Tommy.
Visitation will be held from 4-9 PM Wednesday at the Vander May Wayne Colonial Funeral Home in Wayne. Funeral services will be held on Thursday at 10 AM at St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church in Wayne.
The Rumana family said that donations to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital would be appreciated.