Most Brick residents knew Warren Wolf as the coach who helped shape the lives of thousands of young men during his five decades leading the Dragons on the football field. But Wolf was also a political force in Ocean County who, likewise, shepherded the growth of the entire region.
“He was close to my family and I, he was a man who helped guide me, and a religious man with the highest moral standards,” said Ocean County Freeholder Joe Vicari, who – to this day – occupies the seat once held by Wolf.
Vicari, whose family had just moved to Ocean County from North Jersey, said Wolf took a chance and gave him his first job here, teaching at Lake Riviera Middle School. Vicari’s career in education would lead him to later become a principal in the Brick district and a superintendent in Berkeley Township.
In 2014, when the Warren H. Wolf school was dedicated, Vicari recalled his interview with Wolf.
“He said, ‘Joe Vicari,’ why should I hire you?” Vicari recalled. “I said, ‘I want to make a difference.’ He said, ‘well, the most important thing is character.”‘
The two became close as Vicari also became involved in politics, joining the Toms River township committee and serving as mayor before setting his sights on higher office. Vicari’s goal was to make it to the state legislature, but Wolf’s guidance helped bring him to the seat on the freeholder board he’s held for 38 years. So in 1981, Wolf ran for the legislative seat and Vicari ran for Wolf’s seat on the freeholder board. Both won.
“I’m here because of him,” the freeholder said.
The guidance Wolf provided, however, didn’t stop when the pair found political success.
“I would always go to him when I wondered what to do. Every time I would ask him about something, or ask him his advice, he told me, ‘If you can help someone, then help them,” Vicari said. “He was someone who people would want to emulate, just by meeting him. These days you look at politicians on TV and shake your head. He wasn’t part of that.”
Asked what trait described Wolf best:
“Respect for others. Warren lived a life where he respected everyone he met,” Vicari replied. “He never even told an off-color joke, he was just a great man who would always simply say, ‘do the right thing for others.'”
Wolf died at the age of 92 last Friday. A public wake will be held at Brick Township High School Friday from 2-8 p.m.