TRIBUTE: Steve Renke, who made Demarest Pizza a local institution for more than three decades, constantly took up the causes of anyone who needed funding help -- advertising campaigns at his shop, urging people to give what they could.
"Steve was an incredible supporter of the [Northern Valley Demarest High School] marching band," Debbie Neill-Anaya. "There were countless times that we would order pizzas to feed the band and he always came through for us."
Now the community is rallying to help Renke's devastated widow and three children after the popular pizzeria died suddenly late Saturday.
A few doors down, Yasou Mykonos owner Thomas Vaimakis donated 20% of gross profits from his restaurant to Moira Sullivan Renke and children Braden, Jack and Riley. Vaimakis said he intended to do the same on Monday.
Meanwhile, Joseph Argenziano of Closter launched a GoFundMe campaign for the Renke family that quickly reached $57,650 of its $60,000 goal in less than 24 hours.
Renke, a 49-year-old father of three from Haworth, was a senior at Northern Valley Regional High School when he and three partners bought the Hardenburgh Avenue shop in 1987.
"Because the day of the closing was a school day, he proceeded to ask his lawyer for a note excusing him from school, stating he was at a business closing," according to his bio on the pizzeria's website.
Renke began working behind the counter full time after graduation, then made deliveries in his pickup truck before buying out his partners two years later.
Over time, the business evolved from pizza and sandwiches to include a large, varied menu, catering and birthday parties. It was particularly popular with youngsters, many of them students at nearby Northern Valley.
Renke, whose body was found at the shop two hours after the usual 10:30 p.m. Saturday closing, was also deeply involved in the community and supported a variety of causes, particularly in sports.
A candlelight vigil was held outside the pizzeria Sunday night.
DONATE TO: Steve Renke Memorial Fund
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