WESTFIELD, NJ — Since she landed in Westfield in 1979, Darielle Walsh hasn’t stopped running. We’re not talking about decathalons; we’re talking about running organizations locally and nationally. Her calling card is incredibly modest, just providing her address, phone, email and the words “consulting services” beneath her name. They don't make calling cards big enough to list all her credentials and still fit in a wallet.
But before getting into specifics on her accomplishments, Bill Foley, PhD, former superintendent of Westfield Schools, gave this ringing endorsement of the woman who chaired the search committee that hired him in 1996 when she was president of the Westfield Board of Education: “I’ve known Darielle Walsh for over 30 years and it is hard to imagine an activity in the Westfield community that has not benefited from her presence. I’m sure I’m still leaving something out.”
Some of the Westfield organizations Walsh has served in a leadership capacity include: Boards of Westfield Area YMCA for 27 years and national chair of YMCA of the USA nationwide conferences since 2010; President of the Parent Teacher Organization at Jefferson Elementary School, Edison Intermediate School and Westfield High School (1989-l991); Westfield Board of Education (president 1992-2001); trustee of The Education Fund since 1992, president four years and current board advisor; 2012 president of the Optimist Club (current secretary, member 25 years); Westfield Rotary (retired 2016 after 20 years); member of the town council (four-year term from 2005); member of the Westfield Planning Board for 12 years; board of the Greater Westfield Area Chamber of Commerce for roughly 20 years; trustee of the United Fund since 1997; and trustee of Westfield Foundation for the past six years and current chair of their special funding grants committee.
Foley said that when he was superintendent, “Darielle led several successful bond referendums to add more space to the elementary schools and the high school. She has given her time, talent and treasure to Westfield and we're a better community due to her efforts.” Her leadership resulted in a dozen new classrooms completed ahead of schedule and under budget, improvements to Roosevelt Field as well as other projects, he noted.
Gail Cassidy, former president of the Westfield Board of Education, had praise for her colleague.
“Darielle’s energy is boundless,” Cassidy said. “Over the decades I've known her, she had taken on more and more responsibilities, not only with the national and local Y’s, but primarily with the town of Westfield. Her organized mind, her total commitment and dedication to activities in which she engages, has benefited all of us. Plus she’s a delight to know and work with.”
Where does this dynamo find the time?
“You could say I'm a professional volunteer,” Walsh acknowledged. “It’s my way of giving back to the community. My parents taught me to work hard, do good and give back.”
She also has a professional consulting service providing advice and training to non-profit organizations to maximize their effectiveness. In the early 1990s, she partnered with Penny Pray to establish a popular gift shop, Designers Potpourri, which thrived for about five years.
One might ask, with her considerable list of commitments how does family life fit in? No problem. Darielle admits to being “well-organized” or she couldn’t fulfill all her responsibilities and still shower attention on her family.
“As an only child growing up in Forest Hills [NY], family became my first priority,” she said, which may sound like a contradiction, but not to her.
“Most of my work is done from my home,” she explained. “I'm very flexible.” That has enabled her be close to their two sons as they were growing up and beyond.
Both sons graduated from Villanova where Corey met his wife, Meghan.
“Now Corey, our older son, and his brother Ryan are both married with kids of their own,” she said. “Corey heads the English department at Summit High.” He and Meghan live in Cranford with their son Liam, 14, and daughters Molly, 12 and Erin, 9. Ryan works for Novartis Pharmaceuticals and lives in Westfield with his wife, Elizabeth (Bitsy) and son Colin, 3.
Like Corey and Meghan, Darielle and Mike met when both attended colleges, Mike a senior at Seton Hall and Darielle a freshman at College of Mount St. Vincent, NY. They were engaged before he served a stint in Vietnam. On his return, they married in 1970. They just celebrated their 47th anniversary last month.
Darielle Walsh devotes considerable time to both the local WMCA, going back to 1992 when she joined their board, and to the national YMCA since 2001. She assumed national leadership as chair of their nationwide General Assembly in 2010 in Salt Lake City, Utah, and was instrumental in selecting well known speakers, including Phillip (“Dr. Phil”) Calvin McGraw, and CNN’s Soledad O’Brien. Then in 2013, Philadelphia was the assembly site where other notables, such as surgeon and journalist Dr. Sanjay Gupta addressed roughly 4,000 attendees — a typical turnout.
“I’m on the task force again for the next one in 2019 in Anaheim, California,” she said.
Walsh has served the local board of the Westfield Area YMCA for 28 years; four years as chair. Fifteen years ago the board hired Mark Elsasser as CEO, a selection that she calls “perfect in every way.”
Elsasser applauded her service highly.
“Throughout my nearly 40-year YMCA career, I have worked with literally thousands of volunteers,” he said. “Darielle Walsh certainly is at the very top of the list of outstanding volunteers who make a profoundly positive impact as a dedicated policy and fund development volunteer.”
He added, “We are grateful to have her as a loyal ambassador and integral part of our YMCA family.”
Another venue that continued to delight Walsh is the Optimists Club’s Project Graduation BASH. She was one of the BASH initiators 27 years ago whose aim is to provide a healthy environment for festivities following high school graduation. As hundreds of graduates gathered this year for the all-night BASH, the Optimists provided bus transportation, chaperones, entertainment, special activities and food — and most definitely no alcohol.
As the interview wound down, Walsh revealed two other passions — gardening and cooking. Because fall had taken over, it was only possible to see where flowers had previously bloomed, but cooking in her spacious kitchen is a year-round pleasure for her.
“I’ve always loved to cook,” she said. Walsh will have plenty of that to do when she feeds 32 on Thanksgiving.
“I do most of the cooking but others also bring dishes,” she said. She said that they have a lot to be thankful for at this time of year and for every other day.
For her ongoing community service, Walsh has received many thanks through multiple awards, including 2000 Golden Volunteer Award from the Westfield Area YMCA; 2005 Woman of Excellence from the Union County Commission on the Status of Women; the Greater Westfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2001 Community Service Award at their “Faith in Westfield” event; and 2000 Volunteer of the Year from the Rotary whose motto is “Service before Self,” which you might say defines Darielle Walsh's life.