Dear Friends of the Quilt:

It is with great sadness that we report to you the sudden and incredibly untimely death of Darlene LaRosa, the chair of the Northern New Jersey chapter of the NAMES Project.

Darlene passed away in January in New York City after doing what she so loved to do - going to the theater. She was particularly excited about seeing Paul Newman in the revival of "Our Town" and thankfully got her chance to do so.

It is so incredibly hard to do justice to a person like Darlene in just a few words. Those who attended a memorial service for her in Hackensack got to hear college cronies, professional colleagues and just plain old friends recall Darlene as everything from a tenacious organizer to a unrivaled listener to someone who just, occasionally, like to kick back a few.

The funeral home was filled with odds and ends that were special to Darlene. Kermit the Frog. Pictures (lots of pictures) of Darlene with that great big smile on her face. Lots of rainbows. Playbills. But, most important, were the people from all walks of Darlene's life, coming together for, what was perhaps the first time, to do something she would have hated - to talk about her.

Darlene was the quintessential doer. One would marvel about her ability to get everything done. She was on more committees than anyone in the history of mankind, or so it seemed. It was great to learn from some of her professional colleagues that Darlene was just as relentless with them in making sure that people did what they promised to do. If you said you were going to do something, Darlene good-naturedly nagged you until you did it.

And it was the students that meant the world to her. More than one told us that Darlene made a huge difference in their lives. And that's all, really, she wanted to do. Whether it was a person with AIDS or a student trying to find him or herself or really anyone in need, Darlene was there to make things better. We should all be able to say we mattered in the world as much as Darlene did.

Professionally, Darlene was a college administrator for over twenty years and most recently had been director of student activities at Passaic County Community College. She also worked at Bergen Community College, Fairleigh Dickinson University, and Wagner College. She was a graduate of the University of Hartford and received a master's degree in education from Indiana State University. She served on the board of directors for New Jersey Buddies, Voices for Life, and the NNJ NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. But, more than serving on the boards, Darlene filled out forms, marched in parades, held up banners, stuffed envelopes, served food, folded programs, set up meetings and stored virtually every bit of each organization's history in that cluttered car of hers.

There will be many upcoming events to honor and celebrate Darlene's life. We'll keep you posted about them. In the meantime, Darlene would be really angry if we didn't tell you that if you would like to make a contribution in her name, please do so to the New Jersey Buddies, 149 Hudson Street, Hackensack, New Jersey 07601 or the NNJ Chapter of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt (put in address). She wouldn't like all the fuss, but would LOVE knowing that contributions were flowing.

Darlene, you are sorely missed, but will never be forgotten.

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