In Memory

Peter Kalksma - Class of 1978






KALKSMA Peter D., age 49, of Pine Beach, entered eternal rest Friday November 27 at home with his family by his side.  Born in Newark, he was a 1978 graduate of Paramus H.S. and a 1982 graduate of Glassboro State College (now Rowan).

Pete was a sales manager for R.E. Pierson Materials and also coached Point Pleasant Boro football and Toms River South Jr. Raider Pop Warner.  Early in his career he was a Commercial Diver for the Local NY Dock Builders Union.

Pete enjoyed time with his family, friends, dogs, boating and vacationing in the Caribbean.  He was an active member or the Rowan Gridiron Club.

He was predeceased by his mother Marilyn.Surviving are, his loving wife of 20 years, Sally, beloved children, Paula, Peter Sam and Dana.  Also surviving are his father Peter F. of Beachwood, brother Paul of Ramsey and sister Donna Brancato of Emerson.



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03/01/21 03:33 PM #1    

Kenny "Tash" Tashian (1964)


Posted by Ken Tashian in Behalf of Denis Knox


There will never be another one like you old friend!  Having been with you for so many great moments, I will hold on to those memories until we meet again.  A fierce competitor on the Rugby pitch who jarred many bones and inflicted a punishing tackling style that made huge men afraid to touch the ball in his presence!

If there was a highlight reel for his hits and tackles we would have millions of you tube hits daily!!  He played rugby like he still had his football helmet still on!  I am serious and I am only scratching the surface!

As a friend he was the greatest and most honorable man you could want.  He was never seeking the limelight but he was the most fun guy to be around and we went to many places!  I feel a horrible sense of loss and I feel so badly for his family.  To have such a great man as your husband and father and to lose him so early in life has to be horrific.  I only hope that Sally and the kids can draw from some of Pete's inner strength and realize that we will be together once again one day.

Pete's many friends are there for you and the kids Sally! Just pick up the phone and you will see!

God Bless you Pete!




03/01/21 03:36 PM #2    

Kenny "Tash" Tashian (1964)


Posted by Ken Tashian In Behalf of Jack Schneider



My name is Jack Schneider and it is an honor and privilege to speak with you tonight.  I met Pete Kalksma in August, 1978. Together with a few others, we were invited to Varsity football camp our freshman year at Glassboro State College.  This would be the first time ever that freshmen were invited to varsity camp due to a very large graduating class the year before.  

There were a few of us that made the cut. Pete and I were among those few and earned starting jobs at our respective positions our sophomore, junior and senior years.  We had the privilege of being selected co- captains our senior year.  That is where our journey together began.  The very first thing that impressed me the most about Pete was his honor and integrity.  We were young and didn’t always do things that we were proud of, but with Pete there were boundaries he would not cross.  He was a man of his word.  I wish I could have said the same about myself back then, but I can today because of my relationship with Pete.

I hit a bunch of rough spots in my life a bunch of years ago. Now when this happens, two things take place.  People have a tendency to distance themselves from you, or they move in a little closer.  Pete moved in a little closer.  He hung in there with me and for that I’m eternally grateful.  I’m a better father, husband and person today because of my relationship with Pete.

The last time I saw Pete, we were standing in the back yard lighting the grill reflecting on the road we’ve traveled.  I asked him if he was happy.  He said, “Yeah I’m happy.  All I ever wanted is right here.  To be with Sally, watch my kids grow up, and take the dogs for a run.”  That may sound simple and it is. You see Pete didn’t need any material things or outside influences to fill some empty spot in his heart.  He had no empty spots.  What he wanted was right in front of him and he knew it.

Pete was not a warm and fuzzy guy.  When we would greet or say good bye over the last few years, I would get a kick out of moving in to give him a hug and he would be a little timid and remark, “ oh yeah, Schneider is a hugger”  The other thing I learned after while was to ask a few more questions than the usual, ‘How are you?”  That’s when you would get some of the warmer side of him and see and hear how proud he was of you Sally and also Paula, Sam and Dana.

Every year, our Alumni golf outing would coincide within a week of the race Sally hosts and sponsors each year. I would ask Pete, “how’s that coming along?”  He would begin by complaining about having to clean up the yard, sprucing up the house and getting it ready for all the people that Sally would have come back to the house.

Then the conversation would turn toward how the race has grown, how Sally needs to prep further and further in advance.  I remember the year he talked about Paula’s first race with Sally.  How nice it was to have them run together.  How the local news covered the ever-growing annual event.  Suddenly, you could see his excitement and admiration. He spoke the same way about all three of you kids. The practice schedules, the matches, the schoolwork, and how well you managed it all.  He is proud of each of you.

I’d like to share with you what I call a Pete ism.  One of the things that Pete would say and do that is specific to him that only he knows what it means or infers.  It was a couple of years after we graduated when six of us went skiing up at Stowe, Vermont.  It was Pete and Sally, Dean and his significant other at the time and me with mine.  We strapped the skis to the roof piled the bags in the trunk and the six of us crammed into a two door sedan. It was a memorable road trip.  We went over New Years and had a wonderful time.  One morning, we were at breakfast after being out late the night before.  

We were in a cafeteria-style restaurant, where you grab your tray and silverware and move along by sliding your tray down the line.  Along the steam table, you make your selections and the man working the grill would ask what you wanted.  I ordered eggs up with sausage.  The next order was placed.  Dean would order scrambled and so on.  Pete was the last in our group to order.  He asked for eggs. The cook asked, “ How would you like those cooked?”  Pete responded, “ Slap, flap ‘em and jack’em!”  I looked down the line not exactly sure what I just heard.  Dean looked at Pete the same way, then turned to me and said, “Slap flap’ em and jack ‘em.  What the heck is that?”  Now we’re laughing pretty hard and everyone is looking at Pete. I’m holding up the line looking at Pete laughing.

Now the best and funniest part of this whole story is what the cook winded up doing.  The cook stood with the spatula in his hand wondering what to do trying not to laugh.  Pete noticing all the attention focused on him tilts his head down a little, looks out of the tops of his eyes at the cook, and without saying a word, motions with his hand to move it along and get busy.   The cook pauses for a moment, intimidated and looks Pete in the eye and says,” got it.”  He turns and proceeds to prep the eggs. Now we’re all baffled and laughing even harder. To this day, I still don’t know what, “slap flap ‘em and jack ‘em” means or how those eggs were prepared.

Finally I mentioned that I was impressed with Pete’s honor and integrity.  These qualities were the cornerstones of who he was. The foundation of everything he ever did was his heart and determination.  Pete was not the biggest player on the field in terms of height and weight.  The players up against him generally over matched him in size, but Pete played big.  His heart and determination leveled that playing field. He was that way in everything he tackled in life.  He was a pit bull. Relentless.

I challenge you three: Paula, Sam and Dana to live life as your father did.  Heck, I don’t challenge you.  I dare you, and everyone in this room to live life with the same heart and determination that Pete Kalksma did.  You’ll all be better for it, and the world will grow to be a better place because of it.


Thank you.





03/01/21 04:12 PM #3    

Kenny "Tash" Tashian (1964)


Posted by Ken Tashian In Behalf of Richard Rifkin - Class of 1978



Euology Given by Richard Rifkin – Class of 1978                      


Sally, Paula, Sam, Dana, Mr. Kalksma, Donna & Bob, Paul & Dorothy, friends, and fellow Pete Kalksma fans.  When people think of Pete Kalksma, several traits come to mind:

Athleticism & Toughness – Everyone who ever competed with or against Pete on an athletic field knows that they never saw anyone tougher.  He was seemingly impervious to pain and had a dogged determination that became his philosophy in life.  It was rare in his adult life to see the intensity and aggression that he brought to his athletic arenas, but when you saw it, it was a look that could melt ice and God help the person who was on the receiving end of it.

On the football field, NOBODY hit harder than Pete, (He loved to hit.  As an adult, he lamented how much he missed “hitting people”).  Pete was a tremendous natural athlete.  Blessed with fantastic instincts and a tenacity that would be his trademark throughout his life, Pete found great success early on.  He played linebacker and fullback in HS at Paramus High and then linebacker at Glassboro.  He excelled in wrestling in High School, as a member of a legendary, undefeated PHS teams of the late 70’s.  After college, he came to love Rugby.  He achieved great notoriety, in his athletic pursuits gaining all-league honors, and many accolades and recognition.  Had Pete been a step faster in the forty yard dash, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to envision a stint in the NFL as part of his resume.  He was that good.

He had a presence about him that made others want to be in his orbit. That is why it was an obvious choice for the coaches of those teams to name Pete team captain.  And he took that title seriously.  I can remember him calling out some teammates who weren’t taking their responsibilities as seriously as he thought they should, and he let them know it, in no uncertain terms.  That is not an easy thing to do with your peers as a teenager.  He was, simply, the toughest guy I ever knew.  Never saw him really hurt.  When there’d be scraps in high school, Pete was always the last one standing.

Work Ethic – Pete felt there were no short cuts in life.  The quote he chose for our HS yearbook was so simple and so perfectly captured who he was.  It said “If you’re going to do something, do it right, or don’t do it at all”.  That was the way he lived every day of his life.   Later BTW, in our yearbook, in reference to an incident in which we got arrested for sleeping on the beach down the shore, he wrote the following inscription to me: “Don’t let me sleep on the beach, or I’ll let Mele breathe on you”. Ah, that razor sharp wit we all loved.

Old School Values – Pete saw things in black and white. There was very little grey in his world. I always joked with him that he was born 40 years too late.  His was a world in which you didn’t buy things on credit, your word was your bond, and when you did a job, you worked as hard on it as you could, regardless of if you were feeling lousy or tired or unmotivated.  He would be back at the office and working out in the garage the day after chemo.

That Smile and That Laugh – When I think of Pete, he has that easy smile on his face and I hear that chuckle that was his trademark.  It is what many people have mentioned to me as the enduring image of him even though they hadn’t seen him in decades.  That chuckle by the way was often used as a defense mechanism.  If we were out somewhere and I saw Pete laughing in response to something that was said, I’d ask him later what was so funny.  Most of the time, he’d say “I have no idea, they were talking into my bad ear”.

Humility – Despite having plenty of reasons to be full of himself, Pete was never vain.  Blessed with good looks and a rock solid body, he never strutted or preened.  Friends for nearly forty years, and I NEVER heard him brag about himself.  And when others would sing his praises, either to him, or about him, he would just chuckle and shrug, and try to change the subject.

Fearlessness – Pete struggled with serious physical ailments his entire adult life, and yet I never heard him utter the “woe is me” mantra.  He believed you played the cards you were dealt, and did the best you could.  I never once saw fear in his eyes.



My name is Rich Rifkin and Pete and I were best friends.  Growing up, Pete’s house was the center of our universe, in that it was the meeting place for all of us before we would head out for the evening.  Partly this was due to the central location of the Kalksma’s house on Dover Street in Paramus.  But it was also because Pete’s parents created such a warm and welcoming place for us.  We’d all agree after school to “meet at Kalksma’s at 7”.  Great, good, see you then.  So when we’d all arrive at that time, Me, Vinny, Dennis, Brian, Schmelz, Maio, Kocses, Hennessy, Turk, Muni, where would we find Pete? . . . asleep in his room.  He always had to take his “nap” and we’d sit around waiting for him to shower, eat, get ready, THEN we’d finally be able to go.  He picked up one of his nicknames, “Speed” in those days because we ALWAYS were waiting on Pete.

Pete’s sister Donna, two grades older than us, let us tag along to our first rock concert to see David Bowie at Madison Square Garden.  Pete’s younger brother Paul made him laugh like no one else.  They were each other’s best audience.  We’d kid Pete that Paul was a younger, better looking, funnier, wittier version of him, and perhaps we should just hang out with him instead of Pete.  He’d just beam with the pride of a big brother at that notion.

But we had a magical time growing up.  We did lots of things I wouldn’t say we are proud of, but we were for the most part harmless, and our days and nights were filled with great times.  Our spouses and our kids have heard many of the stories ad nauseam and they never get old. Those were good times, with lifetime friendships forming, the bond of our crew becoming as strong as a “band of brothers”.  We loved music, we loved cruising around town on our bikes, then later in our cars and we loved just hanging out together.  There is a very tight knit group of us from those days that I’m proud to say is as close today as we were 30+ years ago, and Pete was without a doubt, our leader, our heart and our soul.  He was the Alpha dog. He was the kind of guy that the girls wanted to date and guys wanted to be around.

Pete loved Bugs Bunny growing up.  So much in fact, that he later named his dog after the Rascally Rabbit.  Pete’s signature cheer of approval at sporting events became “That’s the old pepper”.   Not everyone knows that he got that from one of his favorite episodes, Baseball Bugs.

In high school, Pete cruised through on his natural charm.  One young female teacher took quite an interest in Pete’s, ahem, school work.  He thought it was hilarious.  After high school, Pete moved on to Glassboro State (now Rowan College) where in addition to his success on the football field, Pete earned his degree in Geography, but the most significant thing he found at Glassboro was the love of his life, Sally Cavallaro.  As I’ve mentioned, Pete had never been one who had much difficulty with the ladies.  He was dating a few at Glassboro, but after he and Sally met, that was the end of his “playing” days.  They married in 1989, a few years after graduation, and remained devoted partners ever since.

Along the way, after graduation and trying to figure out what he wanted to be when he grew up, Pete made a living as a commercial diver, turning a hobby he and Vinny Feorenzo learned in high school into a vocation.  THIS was a profession that is not for the faint of heart.  Pete would don a leaky wet suit and dive into nasty, brackish, freezing water and repair whatever they were being paid to repair, bridges, barges, whatever.  He did this for a few years and it was during these years that Pete did some travelling, seeing parts of the world that he’d never been to, California, Europe, and Central America. It proved to him something that he already knew about himself . . . he was a Jersey guy, a homebody, and Jersey was good enough for him.  Seeing those places was interesting, but home was what was most important to Pete.  He then settled into a very successful career that was easier on him physically and allowed him to utilize his natural gifts, as a sales executive in the hot mix asphalt and paving industry.

He was really a simple guy at heart, easy going, and easy to be around.  He wasn’t one for fancy cocktail parties.  Just surround him with his family and friends, put the football game on TV, crack open some Jack Daniels or Molson XXX’s, crank up some Sinatra, Doors, Elvis, or Ray Charles, throw in some rides out on his boat, and he was pretty much good to go.  When he’d have a nice buzz working, he’d serenade the assembled with his vocal, ahem, gifts.  He’d do his best Elvis and Sinatra, with his girls singing background vocals. His version of “That’s Life” was legendary, at least in his own mind.  When I’d ask him if he was going to take the family on a summer vacation, he’d just say “We live at the beach; they’re on vacation all summer”.  In winters, they’d take memorable family vacations to various Caribbean islands.

He wasn’t much for big cities either, venturing into Manhattan and Philly only to see sporting events, or when ABSOLUTELY necessary.  He was much more comfortable in the quiet of his Pine Beach neighborhood and out on his boat.  His dream was to build a house on the secluded property he and Sally bought in South Jersey and let the dogs run around, while he and Sally puttered around the house.

As I said earlier, Pete was really old school.  He was very traditional. I remember one time in their early years of marriage, and Sally was still learning her way around the kitchen, Pete was telling her how his mom prepared a favorite dish.  He patiently explained to her what that involved.  Sally just giggled, and Pete, with great earnestness in his voice said, and I quote “I’m just trying to teach you what it takes to make me happy”.  For in his mind, that’s what Sally was there for.  It was classic Kalksma.  Sally did learn how to make him incredibly happy.  Pete was always a very conservative guy, a throwback to another era.  He believed in cash ‘n carry.  No credit cards for him.  No car loans. In our 30’s, when we all started making a little money, Vinny and I were explaining to Pete the wisdom of investing in the stock market, he just dismissed it all as “a big scam” and he wanted no part of it, and darned if he wasn’t proven right.

It was the same way with technology.  He begrudgingly accepted using a cell phone and a computer, and he considered the Internet and email a passing fad.  He never answered his cell phone outside of working hours which drove me crazy.  He reluctantly got an email address for work and starting using a computer only recently.  The only email I ever got from him said simply “Is this thing working”?  He’d dismiss these “newfangled” ideas with his trademark, “Ah Jeez”.

Over the years we’d talk about once a week.  You know you’ve been friends with someone forever, when you greet a 48 year old man on the phone with “What’s up loser”?  Usually we’d talk about the kids, how they’re doing, what’s happening on the sports fields, parenting styles and strategies, when to tap the brakes and when to hit the gas.

Just like all parents, we were learning as we went.  We’d talk about our lives, our careers, and just shoot the bull.  We’d find reasons to get together, Pete would come up to my house to help me out with a variety of do-it-yourself projects.  We played a lot of tennis and golf.  It always drove Pete crazy that I was better than him at these “finesse” sports.  I explained to him that you can’t play football and wrestle at corporate events, so his days at the top of the athletic food chain were over.  At which point, he’d punch me so hard in the arm, that I could feel it two days later.

He’d play tennis with Paula and Dana, and was so proud when he couldn’t beat them anymore. He’d lift weights in the garage with Sam, and was bragging about Sam’s “guns” during football games this season.  As Pete’s prognosis grew grim, I asked him if there were any “bucket list” items he wanted to check off, knowing full well what the answer was going to be. “All I wanna do is hang out and catch as many of the kids games and events as I can” and that’s what he did, enduring many long drives to catch Paula and Dana’s matches and Sam’s football games.  He loved watching them play lacrosse too, wishing we had that sport when we were in HS. All three of them are high achievers, being named captains of their teams and serving as leaders in their communities.  The apple, obviously, has not fallen far from the tree. (I guess we’ll give Sally a little credit for their success too.)

No one can really relate to the physical duress and challenges Pete endured for the last 15 years. Yet he never complained, or let them define who he was.  Because he never brought it up, it was easy to forget how physically uncomfortable he often was.  But I know very few people who could have survived what he did.  It was simply his indomitable spirit that refused to acknowledge or give in to his condition.  If you ignore it, it can’t win. When the twins were born prematurely, it was pretty touch and go for a few days whether they would actually survive, especially Dana. I remember vividly talking with Pete, sharing my thoughts and prayers and asking him how he was holding up.  He said, “I’m just putting my hand on her head and saying Feel my strength, Take my strength”. And look at her now.

Our family get togethers with all the kids, were always special and have created life long memories for all of us. Pete was always in the middle of it, hanging a big rope swing, doing tug of war, (him vs all the kids), setting up games, whatever. He loved all of his dogs, from the award winning Tara of his child hood (who’s trophy sat more prominently on his dresser than all of his own awards), to the aforementioned Bugs, to his beloved, crazy Blue and Red.

We could tell “Kalksma” stories all day here.  There are that many.  Legendary stuff, but he wouldn’t be comfortable with that. He never liked being the center of attention.  In fact, he is surely thinking right now, “All right Rifkin, enough, wrap it up”. So I will.

Pete’s life was a testimony to simple values: work hard, play hard, respect other people, keep your ego in check, actions count more than words, don’t spend what you don’t have, and most of all, love and cherish your family.  He lived a wonderful life and he leaves a great void. But his smile, his laughter, his love, endures. And will for generations to come. He was a special man. 




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