Borough mourns death

of well-liked resident

SOUTH RIVER — Last Thursday, the borough lost a well-liked resident after a walk home took a tragic turn.

According to the authorities, John Harvey, 47, of Lisa Drive, left the South River Pub on Main Street at approximately 11 p.m. on March 4. Two and a half hours later, he was found unconscious and severely beaten on Charles Street by two men driving by. After attempting to help the injured man, passers-by contacted the police, said Assistant Middlesex County Prosecutor Thomas Kapsak.

Harvey was taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick; he died of head injuries five days later.

Authorities cite robbery as a probable motive for the attack. While a weapon could have been used to inflict the blunt trauma injuries, none were found at the scene. According to Kapsak, an active investigation into the incident is under way.

"We’re talking to everyone we can," he said. "It’s a wide open investigation."

A Brooklyn, N.Y., native, Harvey lived in Old Bridge, Queens, N.Y., and Farmingdale, N.Y., before moving to South River 10 years ago. An Army veteran of the Vietnam War, he was on active duty with the US Army Reserves in Edison, where he was a member of the Chemical Corps.

He attended St. John’s University in New York, later graduating from Rutgers University in New Brunswick with a history degree, said Michael Nugent, who describes the Lisa Drive resident as one of his best friends.

Last summer, Harvey passed the national test for teacher certification and had submitted resumes to several school districts. According to Nugent, he had been interviewed and accepted by the East Brunswick school district as a substitute teacher. He expected to be appointed to the position sometime this month.

Divorced, Harvey was the father of four children, including twin daughters who are college freshmen in Connecticut and New York, and another son and daughter who live in Old Bridge. He is also survived by his parents, a sister, two brothers and several nieces and nephews.

A member of Crandall Kossman American Legion Post 177 and the Friendly Sons of the Shillelagh, both of Old Bridge, Harvey is remembered by his friends as a kind, gentle man appreciated by many. His friends called him "Maintain," after one of his favorite expressions.

"It meant, ‘Keep going, don’t let anything get you down,’" explained Dennis Sullivan, the owner of Modigraphics on Whitehead Avenue, and a friend of Harvey. "John Harvey was a guy who would never hurt a fly."

"He would walk away from an argument rather than get involved in one," Nugent reflected. "He’s going to be missed by his many friends."

Deeply concerned with the incident, Harvey’s friends embarked on a campaign to both help Harvey’s family and the ongoing investigation. Called "Citizens for a Safer South River," the group has posted fliers and distributed collection cans in local businesses; the funds will go toward a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the attack, as well as to Harvey’s family.

According to members of the group, the campaign is also a way to address safety issues in the borough. Since the March 4 incident and a Feb. 12 shooting and stabbing in the downtown area, many residents no longer feel safe.

Anyone with information on the case can call the South River Police Department at (732) 238-1000. All contacts are kept confidential.

Donations can be sent to the Raritan Bay Credit Union, 93 Main St., South River, NJ 08882. Checks should be payable to The John Harvey Fund.

— Jennifer Micale