WEST ORANGE, NJ – The West Orange Scholarship Fund (WOSF) honored educator Mary Jo Codey at a reception held at the Montclair Country Club on June 15, raising $20,000 to implement an annual scholarship in her name.

Attendees included former New Jersey Governor and current Senator Richard Codey; Mayor Robert Parisi and wife Sheila; WOSF trustees; Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Rutzky; West Orange Board of Education members Laura Lab, Sandra Mordecai and Mark Robertson; former superintendent Jerry Tarnoff; Assemblypersons John McKeon and Mila Jasey; and council members Victor Cirilo, Joe Krakvoviak, Susan McCartney and Jerry Guarino. 

Codey, an educator for four decades and a special needs educator in West Orange for 15 years, retired from Gregory Elementary School on June 16. Principal Michele Thompson lauded and joked about Codey at the June 15 event as fellow Gregory educators cheered.

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Thompson shared about Codey’s “treasure chest” for her students and how she loved candy, presenting her with tootsie rolls and treats.

“You couldn’t meet a more loving and caring person than Mary Jo,” said Thompson. “And we’ll always love you…you will be missed.”

Richard Codey introduced his wife, stating that he could not have hoped for a better wife and friend.

“No matter what she has dealt with—mental illness, breast cancer, or a coma—she always wakes up with a smile,” he said.

Mary Jo is not only an educator of 40 years or the wife of a former governor; she is also a mother who struggled with serious post-partum depression following the birth of her children. After fighting through it, she began the Codey Foundation in 2011 with her husband to support other women battling the illness. As she retires, she is preparing for the birth of her first grandchild.

She stepped to the microphone and thanked everyone for being there.

“I could not find so many people under one roof that I love so much,” she said. “It was a tough decision to retire, but it’s the right time. I had a teacher at Mountain High School who told me, ‘What you do to or for your students counts.’ That teacher turned my life around.”

Mary Jo was a 1974 graduate.

“It’s no wonder that we have such outstanding students, as I see so many staff from our wonderful West Orange Schools,” said WOSF President Rich Rizzolo as he presented Mary Jo with flowers.

The event was organized by Lisa Touzeau, trustee on the WOSF. Funds raised will be used to establish an annual scholarship in Mary Jo Codey’s name, to be given to a graduating West Orange High School Senior. 

See photos from the event here