Michael Joseph Panza of Toms River, a former longtime Montclair resident and a retired Montclair Fire Department lieutenant, died at home on May 23, 2022, with his family by his side. He was 92.

Mr. Panza was a first generation Italian American, born in Montclair to Rosina and Vito Panza in 1929 and raised there. 

He attended Montclair High School and was captain of the football team in both his junior and senior years. He led his team to state championships in 1947 and 1948, winning the “Game of the Century” in the 1948 season against Clifton High School, 18-0. 

Mr. Panza briefly attended St. Louis University before joining the Navy in 1951. During the Korean War he served on the USS Salerno Bay and USS Bennington as a petty officer second class. 

He and his wife, Doris, settled in Montclair, where he joined the fire department and rose to the rank of lieutenant. 

He was a man of great integrity and never missed an opportunity to lend a helping hand; he was the epitome of a family man. His greatest joys were making meatballs and gravy for his family, watching “Jeopardy!” with his girls and following football with his boys. 

Most importantly, Mr. Panza truly enjoyed sharing his memories, from meeting the love of his life, the late Doris, to whom he was married for 61 years, to his football and Navy days. 

He was a generous soul, a comforting man and beloved by all. 

Mr. Panza is survived by his sons, Michael Panza (Danine), Dr. Robert Panza (Eliane) and Nicholas Panza (Peter Seymour); his daughters, Kathleen P. Intili, Doris R. D’Anton and Patrice Ruggieri (Edward), 15  grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. 

Visiting will be Tuesday, May 31, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Silverton Memorial Funeral Home, 2482 Church Road, Toms River. A Mass of a Christian burial will be said Wednesday, June 1, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Luke's R.C. Church, Toms River, with burial to follow at St. Joseph's Cemetery, Toms River. 

In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests a donation to Children’s Tumor Foundation.