Dr. Alfred Piaget, Jr., PhD.
Wednesday
14
October

Visitation at Funeral Home

10:30 am - 1:30 pm
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Moore's Home For Funerals
1591 Alps Rd
Wayne, New Jersey, United States
Wednesday
14
October

Graveside Service

2:15 pm
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Laurel Grove Memorial Park
295 Totowa Road
Totowa, New Jersey, United States
Wednesday
14
October

Final Resting Place

2:15 pm
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Laurel Grove Memorial Park
295 Totowa Road
Totowa, New Jersey, United States

Obituary of Dr. Alfred W. Piaget, Jr., PhD.

Please share a memory of Dr. Alfred to include in a keepsake book for family and friends.
Dr. Alfred W. Piaget, Jr., PhD. passed away October 10, 2020 at the age of 90. Remembering Al "Doc" Piaget Over the years, when I (Rachel Geller Rosenheck) would talk about my dear friends, people would ask "Who IS this guy? Where do you know him from?" And bewildered I'd ask, "This guy?" And they'd explain, "Yeah! This guy Allen Darth." Because that's the way it always was. Al…. and Darth. Only very, very rarely would we be thinking about one without the other. Al, usually center stage, upfront and leading a feisty conversation wherever it might go. And then always, every few words, Al would crane his neck to see how it played with his biggest fan and his constant support, Darth. And every conversation would be punctuated with "Right, Darth? Right Darth?" so she could provide the encouragement, the elucidation, the agreement that was Al 'n Darth. That love remained for their entire lives, right to his last day on earth, when they were going to order not one hospital bed, but two. Because even though Darth didn't need one, they couldn't imagine not sleeping the night together, side by side. I met Al 'n Darth as the exactly 60 years ago, when they were dating, both teaching the same subject at Anthony Wayne Jr. High School. As a couple they were stunning. Charming, charismatic, with movie star good looks. It was the 60's and Al always bought those glamorous American convertibles. The site of the two of them driving around town was the site dreams were made of. Forever doing things their own way, they decided to elope, with only two of their closest friends as witnesses. After the ceremony, they walked jubilantly into my parent's back door to announce the happy day. They both wore white and the biggest of grins. So simple. The bond that mattered, not a whole lot of relationships that didn't. And that's what they held on to throughout their lives. But the enchanting image that we saw only reflected the outside. It didn't take much to see the serious, committed, socially conscious hearts that were actually driving them from the inside. As a teacher, there is no question that if you had the honor to be his student, you never forgot the experience. Scores of people now in their fifties, sixties and older cite Al as the best teacher they ever had, in all their 16+ years of education. Hands down. As a social studies teacher, he never shied away from raising all the serious issues of the day. And instead of the dates and dead geography so many of us remember from our history classes, he lit up these kids' brains, their curiosity, their imagination about the world that existed long before they came on the scene. As gifted a history teacher as he was, his lessons on what it means to live a moral life weren't just history lessons. Al'n Darth took on the issues that taught us all how to be on the right side of history. Because Al was nothing if not authentic, his agnosticism didn't allow him to say 'under God' in the pledge of allegiance with his class every morning. A parent got hold of this information, and it became one of the biggest political storms of the year. The parent demanded to the school board that Al be suspended, which he was! But the hundreds of students and their parents came to town hall to defend him and demand his reinstatement. They did it because of the great teacher he was, but it was also a hands on lesson on America's freedom of religion. A far more powerful lesson than the actual recitation of the pledge of allegiance. Al'n Darth, together with my parents, could be seen every weekend driving with the right hand window open in their cars, putting flyers in Wayne resident mailboxes. There were bigots running for mayor, running for the school board, running for town council. And Al 'n Darth made it their business to fight against them. A mayoral candidate told Wayne's voters "not to vote for the Jew, as he'd raise taxes for education and take Christ out of Christmas." Needless to say, Al 'n Darth would not let that stand. And then in 1963 they boarded busses to the first March on Washington. They came back with stories of peaceful, joyous voices raised as one. And that optimism, that belief in the universal rights and dignity of all men, remained his watchword. In their many trips to South Africa, to the Black shanty towns where tourists rarely visited, they brought money to build and provide service as well as friendship. To the end, Al told everyone that Nelson Mandela was his life's hero. During those many years of good service to the town, Al saw his calling with difficult kids, troubled kids, failing kids as a calling he needed to fulfill. He got his PhD from Yeshiva University in NYC. Around this time everyone started calling Al by the friendly moniker of Doc. Nothing stuffy, just a well-earned recognition that he was both a friend and a healer in so many ways. By this time, Al had his signature beard, which still wasn't particularly mainstream in NJ suburbia. And I'm guessing there were plenty at Yeshiva who thought they had a rabbi in their social work classes, not the Christian-born, Agnostic-chosen man he really was. (In fact, someone once mentioned to my mother in the supermarket that she saw the town rabbi was up on a ladder painting her house. My mother looked aghast, until she realized the woman just misidentified Al, who was doing one more good deed for the Geller family.) Anyway, with his PhD and advanced training, Al set about utilizing the talents he'd always had. He founded The Benway School, a place for teenagers who had no place in the public school system. These were kids who'd been thrown out of their local schools for academic failure, for disruptive misbehavior and, often enough, skirmishes with the police. They were kids of every color, mostly from disadvantaged households. State law said they had to put these kids somewhere, and the very, very lucky ones found their way to Benway, under Al's guidance. The stories of transformation are so complete, so powerful, each one feels like a miracle. Kids who thought they were nothing, who couldn't perform to expectations, turned around under Al's loving connection. Through his ability to listen, and his reasonable, but determined expectations, so many of them gave up their anger, their hopelessness. They went to college. They became successful professionals, successful businesspeople, they formed solid, loving homes. In my religion, in Judaism, the Rabbis say that if you save one life, it is as if you save a whole world. I close my eyes, and imagine all the many, many worlds that this one man saved in his lifetime. With all this, we have to remember that Al continued to face the world with nothing short of glee. He loved a good game of Hearts until halfway through the night. There was nothing he liked better than a terrible pun. He loved slapstick, and had a belly laugh that was infectious. I will never forget our family going with Al 'n Darth to see The Pink Panther with Peter Sellers. Their laughter was so loud, so uproarious, that the other people moved their seats and the theatre management threatened to throw us out on our ears. Life was lived to enjoy the good times, right up to the very end. And no remembrance could possibly be complete without mention of Doc's birds. Al started breeding and flying pigeons at a very early age, I think even before he went into the Navy, though someone could correct me on that. He loved each and every one, built them a beautiful loft overlooking the golf course, so they wouldn't get confused racing home. He was a brilliant breeder, and had some of the world's finest birds. He knew each one as an individual, and cared for them with the gentleness, respect and wisdom that made him a leader in his pigeon-fancier community. In his declining days, Jon and I went to visit Al 'n Darth at their home on Cathyann Ct. As we came in, a minister sent by hospice was just leaving. Al had told him he was most happy to chat with him, but he should know right up front, that he was an agnostic. Al had always maintained that since human beings can never know one way or the other, he would live his life with that mystery unsolved. The minister, in his wisdom, smiled, and patted Al's arm, and said, "Well, you will find out soon enough." I like to think that that helped stoke Al's curiosity right up to the end. Especially, today we share our love with Al's beloved Darth, and Bruce, his devoted brother. We want you to know that our memories of Al, of Doc, the man he was, the years we spent together, the great times we had, and the values he cared about, will stay with us forever. He is survived by his beloved wife of 56 years Dorothy (nee Tunis), his brother Bruce Piaget and his two cousins Lisa DiPeri and Patrick Molino. Relatives and friends are invited to his visiting hours on Wednesday, October 14, 2020 from 10:30 to 1:30 PM at Moore's Home for Funerals 1591 Alps Rd in Wayne and his interment to follow at 2:15 pm at Laurel Grove Memorial Park in Totowa, NJ. Please consider a donation to your favorite charity in Dr. Piaget's memory.
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