WEST ORANGE, NJ - Beloved Liberty Middle School (LMS) science teacher Sue Zaccaro was remembered and honored with the planting of a Japanese Lilac tree at the township’s 2019 Arbor Day ceremony at LMS.
Zaccaro, who was described by LMS Principal Bob Klemt as a "force of nature,” died on June 30, 2018, after a long battle with cancer. The after-school Arbor Day ceremony allowed students to remember their teacher.
"Sue was always welcoming to our students and coming up with innovative projects," said Klemt. "It's nice to see the sun has come out to shine down on us—just like Sue."
"Sue was on the cutting edge of the new Science standards before it was even a thing—and if I needed to train new science staff, I sent them to her," said Science Supervisor Stephanie Suriano. "I learned a long time ago to just stay out of her way.”
Members of Zaccaro's family—including her husband, Mark Mochan; her daughter, Jackie; and her grandson, Ryan—were present for the ceremony, which also featured comments from former and current Student Council presidents.
Mayor Robert Parisi, Councilwomen Sue McCartney and Michelle Casalino, Assistant Department of Public Works Director Nick Salese, Forester John Linson, West Orange Environmental Commission (WOEC) chair Mike Brick and members of the WOEC were also present as the township dedicated the Japanese Lilac Tree in the courtyard outside Zaccaro's eighth grade science classroom.
McCartney presented the annual "Heart of Green" award to DPW employee Mike Elifani, and Forester John Linson, who dedicated the tree, also recognized West Orange as a long-time Tree City, USA.
"I could hear from Sue at any time, and there were four words I always dreaded the most," said said LMS science teacher Vince DeJesus, who worked with Zaccaro for many years. "The call usually came around 7 a.m., and then I would hear the words, 'I have an idea.’"
Christina Faust, a newly appointed science teacher, shared the school’s plans for the courtyard, where LMS hopes to plant pollinator gardens to parallel those at The Rock (located across the street from the township’s recycling center) and add other related environmental components.
At the base of the tree is a plaque dedicated to Zaccaro that reads:
In Loving Memory of Susan Zaccaro
Teacher, Mentor, Friend
28 Years of Service to West Orange Students
Every day in some small way
Memories of you come our way
Though absent, you're always near
Still missed, loved and always dear.