Richard Sorrell, age 74, passed away Nov. 24 at Riverview Medical Center. Richard was born in Massena, New York in 1944 to the late Sherman Sorrell and Mary Margaret Ladd. He was predeceased by his cousin Susan Andrew Sweet who grew up in the same house and was like a sister to him, and her parents, Russell Andrew and Elisabeth Andrew Schoeffel.
Richard was a wonderfully loving husband, father and friend. Everyone who encountered Richard was touched by his kind and gentle manner; he would go out of his way to do anything and everything for both family and friends. Richard often remarked on how lucky he was.
Richard was the devoted husband of Sally Sorrell since 1968. He is survived by two sons and daughters-in-law, Peter Sorrell and Melanie Holm, and John Sorrell and Elaine Driscoll. Richard is also survived by his two adoring grandchildren, Willow and Heath.
Richard taught American History at Brookdale Community College for over 45 years after completing a dissertation on French-Canadian immigration history at the University of Buffalo and publishing pioneering demographic research on the French-Canadian immigrant experience in Rhode Island and in the works of Jack Kerouac and Grace Metalious. As the author of “The Catholic Counterculture in America, 1933-1962,” wrote in 2001, “Historian Richard Sorrell was among those few who sensed that ‘Kerouac’s life and literature can best be understood in terms of his ethno-religious background, which was heavily Franco-Catholic.’ ”
Despite his protestations to the contrary, Richard was a meticulous thinker who is still cited in dissertations defended as recently as 2013 and corresponded with academics working in the field when they asked questions about his original research; he often remarked on the glory of being “immortalized in a footnote.”
Brookdale was his second home, a place he truly loved and, in the words of one of his favorite television characters, “a place where he knew he was loved.” Richard’s great joy as an educator was team-teaching with his closest friend Carl Francese, who passed away in March 2017. Richard and Carl co-authored a textbook for their popular class on the history of rock and roll at Brookdale: “From Tupelo to Woodstock: Youth, Race and Rock and Roll in America, 1954-1969.”
A memorial gathering was held at Thompson Memorial Home in Red Bank Nov. 29. A celebration of Richard’s life was held in the Navesink Rooms at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft Nov. 30.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Richard Sorrell Memorial Scholarship Fund with a check payable to the Brookdale Community College Foundation at 765 Newman Springs Road, Lincroft, NJ 07738 or a tax-deductible donation to Brookdale online at brookdalefoundation.com. Please write “Richard Sorrell Scholarship” on the memo line or in the comments box.