By Maddy Vitale
Twenty-eight years have passed since Ronnie Moretti, 16, of Seaville, was killed by a drunken driver.
It may seem like a long time ago for some, but for Kathy Moretti the years do not lessen her feeling of loss, nor does it diminish the love she had for her son. Ronnie was killed Nov. 10, 1991.
The family, the memories, the times Ronnie shared with his mom, father, Ronald Moretti, and three siblings will forever be in their hearts.
“He was our son, a brother, a friend,” said Kathy Moretti, 69, of Cape May Court House. “Ronnie had dreams and hopes just like everyone else. He played basketball. He had goals.”
Ronnie was a junior at Ocean City High School along with his friend, Cheryl Davis, a senior, when they were killed on the 34th Street Bridge. Ronnie and Cheryl were passengers in a car driven by a friend that was hit by a drunken driver.
A memorial plaque for Ronnie and Cheryl remains fixed to a railing on the bridge for people to see. It is on the right-hand side when traveling into Ocean City.
For many years, Kathy Moretti placed two red and white bows, for Ocean City’s school colors, above the plaque.
The bows are a symbol of hope and a way to honor and remember Ronnie and Cheryl. Everyone who drives, bikes or walks across the bridge may see the memorial, Moretti noted.
“I always make sure there are new bows up there, that they are not dirty or tattered and that they are not faded,” she said.
But it appears someone removed the bows, on not one, but at least two occasions.
Moretti wants answers.
She put fresh bows up on Feb. 3 using heavy duty zip ties to fasten them onto the railing.
When she went to replace them in March, she discovered they were gone.
Without a thought, she put up new bows. On April 25 she also put up fresh ribbons, but someone removed them again, she said.
“Someone had to have cut them off because I use heavy duty ties,” Moretti said.
The bows Moretti put up on May 14 are still there and she is hoping they remain there until it is time to replace them.
Moretti asked around and made all of the calls to officials trying to find out what became of the bows.
“I went to the Ocean City Police Department and the Public Works Department to see if they knew who removed the bows,” Moretti recalled. “I even went to the county road department and the county bridge commission. They all said they didn’t remove the bows.”
While there is not a law or ordinance forbidding Moretti from placing the bows on the bridge, she wonders if someone was opposed to them.
“Everyone knows what the bows mean to our family. They are all supportive of us,” she noted. “Whoever is doing this should be ashamed of themselves.”
The night Ronnie and Cheryl were killed, they were returning from bowling. They were in a car heading back to Ocean City to drop someone off when the drunken driver crashed into them.
The drunken driver was convicted and sentenced to eight years in state prison.
For years, Moretti, a retired Upper Township Middle School secretary, spoke at area schools about the impact drunken driving has on the families who lost loved ones.
“It was cathartic because I spoke of Ronnie’s life. By the grace of God, I was able to tell the story,” she said. “If telling Ronnie’s story helps someone and keeps his memory alive, then he did not die in vain. If it saves a life, he did not die in vain. We will never know who, but all that matters is someone is saved.”
Moretti does not speak at schools anymore because she said others, who have tragically dealt with more recent drunken driving crashes, have stepped up to speak to young people about the dangers of drinking and driving.
Moretti and her former husband have three grown children, Gina, Lisa and Danielle, and they are grandparents to five.
She enjoys babysitting her grandchildren.
But her late son will always be in her heart. He will never be forgotten, she stressed.
And while she has spent nearly three decades living a life without Ronnie, there is always that sense of loss. There will always be sadness, she said.
“People say it gets easier,” Moretti said of the passing of time after losing a loved one. “It never gets easier. It just is different.”
Kathy Moretti is urging anyone with information about the missing bows to contact their local police department.