Roger Peter Dinella of Princeton and Barnegat Light, known to many as “Deacon Roger” or “Deacon Dinella,” died on April 30 in Plainsboro. He was 88.
Born in Jersey City on May 16, 1934, Roger was the oldest child of Peter Nicholas Dinella and Angelina Sudnikowska. In 1951, he graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Rutherford. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers College in 1955. At Rutgers, he was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and played on the 150-pound football team. He also received an MBA from New York University in 1956 and earned his CPA.
During his professional business career, Roger worked in senior accounting and financial reporting roles at Peat Marwick Mitchell, RCA, and Bristol-Myers before retiring in 1990. Concurrently, he taught undergraduate accounting or business courses at St. John’s University and Rider College as an adjunct faculty member.
After his retirement from corporate America, Roger was accepted into the diaconate program of the Diocese of Trenton and was ordained a permanent deacon on May 9, 1992. He ministered to parishioners at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Princeton and St. David the King Catholic Church in Princeton Junction for three decades. To serve God daily while supporting his fellow parishioners on their faith journeys was his true calling and passion.
Some memorable experiences over Roger’s younger lifetime included: Attending General MacArthur’s ticker-tape parade in New York City, being an invitee to Elizabeth Taylor’s “Sweet 16,” little-league coaching Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, meeting Pope John XXIII during the Second Vatican Council, and witnessing Mickey Mantle hit the ball off the façade of Yankee Stadium in 1963. He was an avid traveler. He crisscrossed the United States multiple times. Among the many foreign nations that he visited included: Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, the U.K., the U.S.S.R., Yugoslavia (before the 1990s conflict), and countless others. He also made religious pilgrimages to the holy sites of Lourdes (France), Fatima (Portugal), Medjugorje (now Bosnia and Herzegovina), Częstochowa (Poland), Jerusalem, and Bethlehem (Israel).
With his children and grandchildren, Roger spent countless days at Barnegat Light, where he maintained a summer home for over 50 years. He enjoyed classical music, opera, cooking, photography, swimming, sailing, fishing, and sports. His true loves, however, were his family and his Catholic faith. Attending daily Mass, reading the Bible, and reciting the breviary brought him peace. By those who knew and loved him best, Roger will be remembered as an extremely generous, kind, and gregarious husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Roger was a proud Princetonian and a devout deacon, who always placed the concerns of others above himself.
Roger is survived by his wife of 62 years, Mary J. Dinella (née Walsh); brother and sister-in-law, Peter and Alberta Dinella; sister- and brother-in-law Anne and Al Paulsen; and sisters-in-law Kay Stanton and Ann Walsh; five children and their spouses, Roger W. and Maria, David and Kathy, Patricia and Peter McMillan, Jacqueline Dinella, and Judith Durham; his seven grandchildren, Kristen, Julia, Peter and Jamie Dinella, Daniel and David McMillan, and Reeves Durham; and his one great-grandchild, Teagan McMillan. He is predeceased by his parents and sisters, Denise Fletcher and Ruth Fischer; brothers-in-law Joseph Baldwin, Ray Fletcher, Robert Stanton, Daniel Walsh; and sister-in-law Joan Baldwin.
Visitation will be held on Wednesday, May 3 from 4 to 7 p.m. at St. David the King Church in Princeton Junction, with a funeral mass at St. David the King on Thursday, May 4 at 10 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any donations be sent to St. David the King, 1 New Village Road, Princeton Junction, NJ 08550, Attention: Maggie Provine, in Deacon Roger’s memory.