Scotch Plains, NJ -- Sister Irma Gazzillo, SSJ, a beloved member of the Union Catholic community who was inducted into Union Catholic's Hall of Fame this past fall, passed away on Friday, May 1.
Erminia Gazzillo grew up in the Germantown section of Philadelphia and attended Little Flower High School for Girls. Upon graduation in 1951, she entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph, entering the convent at Chestnut Hill and made final profession as Sister Marie Dominic. At Chestnut Hill College, Sister Irma earned a BA degree in Music. She later attended the Catholic University of America where she earned a Masters Degree in Music. Sister Irma was certified in the state of New Jersey to teach Music K-12.
Sister Irma began her illustrious teaching career in Pennsylvania. Her first teaching experience was at Most Precious Blood, teaching third grade and music, while she was a novice. Sister Irma then taught at Holy Angels, where she taught 2nd grade through 8th grade during her 12 year stay.
It was there at Holy Angels where Sister “gave them her youth” teaching there from age 20 to age 31. Following Holy Angels, Sister Irma moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where she taught from 1965 until 1972. Then, in September of 1972, Sister Irma began to teach at Bishop McGuinness High School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She remained there until the fall of 1980, when she was assigned to Holy Family High School in Bayonne.
After nine years at Holy Family, Sister Irma was re-assigned back to Bishop McGuinness. In 1992, she returned to Holy Family and remained there until 1997. In the fall of 1997, Sr. Irma arrived at Union Catholic and made an immediate and lasting impact that will never be forgotten.
Sr. Irma, who spent 61 years as an educator and 66 years as a Sister, taught religion at Union Catholic for 17 years.
In those 17 years, we saw a woman who was passionate about her students, her family,her religious family, her friends, and the arts, especially plays and music.
During her nearly 20 years at Union Catholic, Sister Irma initiated many events that became lasting traditions at the school.
In Sister’s first year at Union Catholic, she led a school play, Mr. Scrooge, while conducting the winter concert, all at the same time. She started the Senior Tree Trimming Party, an annual Christmas season tradition that still continues today– she was senior class moderator, and she ran the senior prom. Sister re-introduced to the school community the May Crowning, was the moderator of the Step Squad, and played the piano for graduation practices.
Being an educator is more than just teaching in the classroom – it’s about creating a family – a community, and a memorable experience for anyone who takes the journey through the Halls of Union Catholic. Sister Irma created that everyday!
Sister Irma knew she had a calling early on, and the UC community is forever grateful she answered that call. She changed the lives of thousands of students, impacting generations – and influenced her colleagues and friends in numerous ways. Sister Irma made us laugh and made us learn. She truly made the world a much better place.
God bless you, Sister Irma.