La Salle instructor killed in West Virginia car crash wanted others to ‘dream big’

A La Salle biology instructor was one of four men killed in a late afternoon car crash in West Virginia this weekend. 

According to West Virginia State Police, Steven Ranjo, 40, was traveling with his 88-year-old father, Leo Ranjo, along I-79 in Wallback, W. Va. Saturday when they were struck head-on by a car that crossed over the median. 

Police said the two men, from the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, died at the scene. Steven Ranjo was an instructor and lab technician at La Salle. He taught microbiology, anatomy and physiology courses for the biology department. He was also a camp director for the local Boy Scouts of America (BSA). 

“They were traveling to see Steve’s hospitalized brother,” said Anne Perrone, who knew Steven as a camp director at the Resica Falls Scout Reservation, a campground in East Stroudsberg, Pa., which her local Germantown troop attended.

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Police said the two passengers in the other vehicle, 20-year-old Tavon Jamal Frisby and 19-year-old Cameron Marcus Shields, both of Middle River, Md., also died at the scene. Authorities say Frisby had just attended a student orientation at the University of Charleston that day.

Remembering a mentor 

James Pierce, chairman of the biology program at La Salle, says Steven was his “right hand man.”

“He was the go-to person here,” said Pierce, who knew Steven for the past two years, “He even helped me move here. He was a wonderful person, he was the one guy willing to drive the university van. The whole department is in shock with this news; it will be hard to replicate what he did here.”

Perrone, who found out about Ranjo’s death through a text message from a mutual friend, echoed the same sentiments. 

“If you look at some of the comments on his Facebook page, you’ll see students and co-workers – they all say the same thing – he was passionate and he was a mentor,” said Perrone.

Mark Chilutti, a vice chairman of the BSA’s Cradle of Liberty Council and close friend of Ranjo’s, says he was traveling to W. Va. to see his older brother who has been in a coma for the last year. Within the last week, the family had received word that he had taken a turn for the worse.

“Steve drove with his father,” said Chilutti. “His mother and sister were in another car. I can’t imagine what they’re going through, when you’re preparing to lose one son and then this happens.”

He showed an ‘unselfish service to others’

Chilutti, who has known Steven since the early 1980s, says he was a lifelong scout who started when he was eight years old, eventually working his way into the Order of the Arrow, a BSA national honor society, before going on to hold various positions within BSA.

“He really grew up in the program and stayed involved as an adult,” said Chilutti. “He’s mentored teens and really showed an unselfish service to others, he’s a textbook example of that.”

Chilutti says Ranjo had an amazing gift for teaching and mentoring. 

“He wanted everyone to dream big,” said Chilutti. “He really brought others to life and got them to see things they didn’t think were possible. And he was not one to do it for awards.”

Chilutti says the BSA “will find a way to honor and recognize Steve” over the coming weeks.

Funeral services for the Ranjos have not yet been scheduled. 

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