SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Two hundred friends and members of Portia Checchio's extended family attended a memorial service on Sunday, May 6, to celebrate the wife of former Scotch Plains Mayor Mauro A. Checchio, who predeceased her 2015.
Born in Orient, Iowa, to Gertrude and Russel Schuler, Portia relocated to Scotch Plains, following her marriage to Mauro (after both graduated from the University of Iowa). They lived in Scotch Plains for the rest of their lives and were active in local politics, community planning, and historic preservation.
The Checchios were particularly passionate about restoring the Shady Rest Clubhouse at Scotch Plains Country Club, where her memorial service was held. The newly renovated building, which dates back before the American Revolution, was the centerpiece of the Shady Rest, America's first black-owned golf course.
Attendees included Scotch Plains Mayor Al Smith, who read a proclamation and also announced that a street in the township would be renamed "Checchio Way" in honor of the former mayor and his wife, who both lived past age 90. Other noteworthy attendees included Portia's brother Harlan, a WWII vet with a sharp with, her five children and numerous grandchildren.
"Mom didn't want a funeral; she wanted a party! She loved champagne, so I hope you have some in her honor," said Sue Checchio, one of Portia's five children.
"Portia was a farm girl. It was part of her spirit," she said, referring to her mother's love of animals and people. "If you were lucky enough to capture a piece of her spirit, she would say, 'do something with it'."