James Friedberg was the type of guy everyone knew and loved. He had a big heart and sense of humor, and never let anything get in the way of his love for animals and his job.
The 71-year-old Sparta resident who was struck and killed by a garbage truck on Friday had devoted nearly half of his life working in the township as the Animal Control Officer. Although he retired 13 years ago, he made a lasting impression in the community and is remembered by his coworkers as someone who is "irreplaceable."
"He was a good guy, everybody liked him," said Sgt. John-Paul Beebe, who knew Friedberg for 23 years. "He was a good worker, but had a tremendous sense of humor so he fit in with all of us."
When it came to rescuing animals in his 33 years working in the township, Friedberg was fearless.
"If you had an animal problem, I don't care if it was a squirrel in the attic or a bat flying around your house," Beebe said, "he would come out there and take care of it for you."
Denise Amato, office manager at the Water Utilities Department, worked in the Health Department with Friedberg for more than a decade and said he always went "above and beyond the normal call of duty."
"He was always there taking care of the animals," she said. "He was a really generous person, thoughtful, kind, and he gave 100 percent to his job."
She said he was extremely "dedicated" to taking care of the animals and handled the responsibilities for three people.
"He worked 24/7," she said. "Animals were his life."
After Friedberg retired, current Hopatcong Animal Control Officer Dale Sloat took over for several years. Sloat said Friedberg was a "wonderful" person and a strong leader as he was one of the first to establish the Animal Control Officer Association.
"He was someone to learn from," Sloat said. "You ask him a question, he'd give you an honest answer. It's a loss in animal control."
Although Friedberg was living home alone at the Knoll View retirement community, after his wife passed away from cancer several years ago and his three grown children were on their own, Beebe said he was still very much involved in the community.
He was well-known, and would still visit the township offices every few weeks.
Friedberg, who Beebe said was a "character," was an avid collector of model trains, coins, and even insects.
"He had hundreds of them [insects] in these display cases with a brief description of what they were and what they do," he said. "It was something you'd only see in a library or museum."
Beebe reffered to Friedberg as a "true community servant," and said he was a very important part in the community.
"It's a tragedy the way he died, and our hearts and prayers go out to Jimmy's family," he said.