A TRIBUTE: At 71, attorney Ronald Sarno was still working, both from his Ridgewood home and a Manhattan office. Clients described the Jersey City native – a onetime priest, eight-time author and consultant to the turn-of-the-70s TV show “The Mod Squad” — as honest and trustworthy.
So it’s with sadness that some began learning this weekend that the St. Peter’s Prep graduate — who began as a Jesuit and then became a hospital administrator before turning to law — died Friday of injuries from being struck by a car while walking home from the train near his Ridgewood home.
It was a tragic irony, given that Sarno, one of a relatively small number of certified trial attorneys throughout the state, practiced accident and injury law in addition to commercial litigation.
A funeral service is scheduled tomorrow morning at Mount Carmel Church in Ridgewood (Visitation is today from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. at Feeney Funeral Home, also in the village).
Sarno was in a dark business suit and carrying a briefcase when he was hit by a 4-door Lexus sedan around 7:30 Tuesday night as he crossed North Walnut Street near the Stop & Shop on Franklin Avenue. Village police said he wasn’t using the crosswalk.
Although he appeared alert at the time, Sarno, who sustained a head injury, later succumbed to complications at Hackensack University Medical Center.
Sarno, from Jersey City, attended Our Lady of Victories Grammar School and St. Aloysius Academy before the Prep. He received BA and MA degrees from Boston College and Union Theological Seminary.
He taught for several years at Xavier High School on West 16th Street in Manhattan.
After leaving the order in 1975, Sarno became a hospital administrator at what was then St. Joseph’s Hospital in Paterson and at Memorial Sloane-Kettering in the city. He received a Ph.D. in Education from NYU at the time.
Sarno later received his JD degree from Fordham University.
He began as an associate with Dennis J. Cummins, Jr. in Fair Lawn before working for two Manhattan law firms. Eventually, he established the firm of Sarno & Felice – which, like Xavier, was in Chelsea – as well as his own firm in Ridgewood.
Sarno also volunteered as a moot court judge at Yale College the past several years.
All told, Sarno litigated more than 325 bench and jury trials, both in state and federal courts in New Jersey and New York. He did commercial litigation in both states and served as defense counsel in a host of major medical cases involving multi-million dollar claims.
Sarno was one of only 1,600 or so lawyers designated by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a certified trial attorney – a distinction that requires positive comments from trial judges and opposing lawyers.
He also was a founding member of the former New Jersey Law Network, an online chat site for attorneys to share their expertise.
“He is diligent and on top of the case at all times,” one client wrote on a lawyer assessment site.
Another, a debt collection agent, said that Sarno made sure that “we were never at any time on the defensive, were always correctly prepared, and always held true to the highest ethical standard. No small thing.”
“Sometimes lawyers will say you might have case, but in all honesty the law is the law and at the end of the day that is what matters,” another client wrote. “I feel [that] of all the lawyers I spoke to, Ronald was honest and told it like it is.”
One client fired from his job said he received “a separation agreement that may have just as well been written in Hindi . . . . total gibberish.” To not sign it, he said, “would have meant not getting a severance check, which was sorely needed.”
Sarno “reviewed my situation quickly, called me on the phone to discuss the situation, and answered my questions – almost before I asked.”
On top of that, Sarno was an author: Among his works are “Prayers for Modern, Urban, Uptight Man” and “Using Media in Religious Education.”
He also was a writing consultant for “The Mod Squad” television program and was adapting an adult version of a children’s book “Learning to Think and Write,” by his wife of 38 years, Una McGinley Sarno, who was earning her Masters in Education degree at Fordham when they met.
(ACCIDENT PHOTOS: Boyd A. Loving)
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