Bill Mosca

Bill and Dolores Mosca are seen here in 2011, at their oldest granddaughter's wedding. Although Bill, a retired Margate school principal, was known for his sense of humor, he also had a talent for ballroom dancing.

Photo provided by Mosca family

Bill Mosca almost didn’t move to Margate. But once he did, he stayed for more than a half-century, becoming a fixture in his town, a regular on its main street until he died last month at 85.

Mosca and his wife, Dolores, both grew up in Brooklyn, but were living in Pottsville, Pa., in 1956. Bill was a radio broadcaster looking to switch to teaching. And he was in Florida, ready to take a job there, when a Margate school offical talked him into coming to South Jersey instead. It wasn’t the money that sold him — Bill always remembered his starting salary was $3,800 a year.

The former Catholic seminarian made the move to Margate while his wife was pregnant with their first baby. And Bill had taught just two years when he was promoted to “teacher in charge” at the Union Avenue School. Then, by 1960, he was named full-fledged principal at Margate’s Eugene A. Tighe School. But after that quick rise from rookie to running a school, he stayed put as principal. He retired in 1991.

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By then, he was known by generations of Margate families from the school, plus he was deeply established at his parish, Margate’s Blessed Sacrament Church. And the four Mosca kids — Billy, Ken, Michael and Maria — were well known all over their hometown.

But even when he retired, Bill would still see all those Margate families all the time, because his favorite places in the world included Casel’s Marketplace, the town’s supermarket, and its neighbor, Dino’s Subs and Pizza. They were just up the street from his home, and he spent so much time there, his family calls Bill the “unofficial greeter” at both spots.

People noticed, too. After he died, Casel’s first store circular included a small, front-page tribute calling Bill “truly an ambassador of good will” for the store. Jo Ann Sedlock, a 30-year employee, said Bill “was in here all the time, sometimes three times a day. ... Believe me, everybody in the store knows him. He was just a special guy.”

The Rev. Ed Lyons is a retired priest living in Somers Point now, but he was stationed at the Moscas’ church in the 1970s when he met Bill. Lyons spotted a special guy right away — one who could make people laugh. The priest knew that talent would work in a group called Entertainers Plus that was starting to put on shows at the parish.

“He told stories and jokes with his Brooklyn accent,” Lyons recalled. “So he sprang a few of these stories on me, and I said, ‘He has to be in the shows.’”

Entertainers Plus went on for almost 15 years, and Bill was a regular, usually doing standup comedy. He always got laughs — no matter how old his jokes were — but what really impressed his friend the priest, Lyons said, was his “nice balance of that comedic side with his serious side of husband and father and family man.”

His family also loved Bill’s sense of humor, and sense of simplicity. In his eulogy, the oldest Mosca son, Billy, now 56 and a lawyer, remembered his dad’s 70th birthday, when his kids offered to host a party at the restaurant of his choice. Bill’s pick: “The Hamilton Mall Food Court,” his son said. “Why not? It had everything — pizza, hot dogs, burgers, Chinese food. He loved it. He called that one of the best birthdays of his life.”

Ken, of Ventnor, the second son, added that the kids tried hard to suggest something a little nicer — Bill could pick anywhere, his favorite restaurant.

“We couldn’t convince him for anything,” Ken said, laughing at the memory of more than 20 family members around the food-court tables on a Saturday night. “He said, ‘It’s my birthday. I get to choose.’”

Since he died, Bill’s family has been hearing from people around the country — all with Margate roots, many calling Bill “my second father,” Ken added. For a town he almost missed, Bill definitely made his mark on the place.

A Life Lived appears Tuesdays and Saturdays.

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