Bayonne has lost one more resident to COVID-19, this time another prominent city employee.
“Our city is in mourning as Covid-19 has, once again, taken one of our own,” Mayor James Davis said in a statement.
Davis said Martire “Matt” Portenti gave more than 33 years of faithful service to the city.
“Matt was always visible and friendly with a huge heart and a helping hand to all,” Davis said.
To honor Portenti, “I am directing all municipal U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of Matt’s dedicated service to our community,” Davis said. “To Ann Marie, Elisa, and Michael, and the entire Portenti family, our entire city grieves with you. Rest In Peace Matt, you will be greatly missed.”
As of Feb. 25, 114 residents have died. The city has commemorated fallen residents in many different ways.
Remembering the dead
Last April, Rev. H. Gene Sykes of the Friendship Baptist Church died from the virus. In January, the city council renamed a street, for Rev. Sykes for his contributions to the city.
The resolution renames West 20th Street, between Ave. C and Broadway, to Reverend H. Gene Sykes Way. The Friendship Baptist Church is at 41 West 20th Street.
Cherie La Pelusa, active resident and wife of Third Ward City Councilman Gary La Pelusa, died from the virus in April.
Gary La Pelusa hosted the The Fifth Annual Uptown Christmas Tree Lighting on a rainy night in December in Morris Park at 47th St. and Broadway. La Pelusa said that the Tree Lighting Ceremony was being held in memory of his late wife Cherie. Three of his children were present to flip the switch: David, Jennifer, and Gianna.
Also in April, Maureen Ciolek, a prominent employee of the city’s Health Department, died from the virus. Eighteen days later, her husband Ken also succumbed.
Mayor James Davis memorialized the couple on social media. Governor Phil Murphy offered his condolences to the Ciolek family during a COVID-19 briefing and on social media in July.
In November, local Boy Scout A.J. Chiaravalloti constructed a memorial to those who have lost their lives to COVID-19.
Chiaravalloti of Troop 25 organized the construction of a walled, circular garden with three six-foot benches at 16th Street Park. The benches are dedicated to people who have been affected by COVID-19: those who died as a result of it; healthcare personnel and essential workers; and community volunteers.
As the pandemic continues to take the lives of residents, the city is poised to continue honoring those who have died through moments of silence, memorials, and in other ways. But as the vaccine rollout continues, many hope the light at the end of the tunnel is approaching.
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