A memorial service for Cherie La Pelusa, vocal resident and wife of Third Ward City Councilman Gary La Pelusa, was recently held at St. Vincent de Paul Church. The service was a solemn ode to the late Cherie, who passed away from COVID-19 in April of 2020.
Cherie is survived by her husband Gary, her daughters Jennifer and Gianna, and sons David and Gary La Pelusa, Jr.
Due to the pandemic, there was not a proper memorial service. On May 8, residents and city officials gathered at the uptown church to honor her life.
“We are not here to remember the pain but to cherish the life of Cherie,” said Rev. Sergio Nadres. “One of the legacies of Cherie is her service to others. Cherie was always there helping out. She was a community leader.”
Nadres recalled her being there for her family as well, encouraging her daughter Gianna to became an altar server.
“We remember Cherie in life here on earth,” Nadres said. “That will give us hope we will see her again and enjoy her life, her company, and her friendship.”
The woman behind the councilman
Before the service concluded, Gary spoke in memory of Cherie. In front of the altar, a giant picture of Cherie was placed between two planters of her favorite flowers.
“Cherie had a tough childhood and had to grow up fast,” Gary said.
Her mother Adrienne had seizure syndrome which landed her in the hospital frequently. And her dad worked nights to support the family.
“She developed a mental toughness from taking care of the whole household,” Gary said.
Gary recalled their early relationship.
“We continued to date, and I became enamored with her,” he said. “She had such a beautiful face and a personality that was very charming.”
Together they ran Gary La Pelusa Landscaping, where she handled the books and behind-the-scenes tasks. Cherie was involved in the church, taking confirmation classes when he proposed. She would later teach Confraternity of Christian Doctrine there.
“I was surprised and elated,” Gary said. “Cherie wasn’t raised with religion.”
Cherie was a great mother, Gary said. She made sure to spend time with all her children and made them all feel special. Gary said she frequently staffed the hallways of her children’s schools and was involved with fundraising and other school activities.
Cherie was a great cook, Gary said. She loved to host dinners or get togethers. She often got her self into unintentional mischief, according to Gary. They traveled frequently, and hijinks would always ensue.
Gary and Cherie shared a love of baseball. Cherie would be watching the games when he came home. But one day she had something else on, a city council meeting. It was Cherie who pushed Gary into politics and running for the city council.
Gary said, “She would tell me: ‘You’re better than that guy, and you know everybody. You should run for office.’ And she helped with everything, from organizing campaigns to helping Gary with city issues and agenda items.
Cherie would frequently share her opinion about serious issues in the city. When they disagreed, he’d often jokingly tell her to run for council herself, to which she would reply that she couldn’t because she wouldn’t be able to hold her tongue.
She was a local activist, attending nearly every city meeting. Cherie would frequently write letters to the editor of the local newspapers, including the Bayonne Community News.
Gary remarked that while she had a sharp tongue and would give you a piece of her mind, she was kind and caring and would give you the shirt off her back. In her final days, she was helping to care for her mother Adrienne following a stroke. Adrienne passed away within in four days of Cherie.
“Looking through photo albums, from all the places we went, and all that we’ve done in the past, she had a smile on her face the whole time,” Gary said. “And that’s how it was knowing Cherie.”
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