County dedicates memorial plaques along Legends Way

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NEWARK, NJ — Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. dedicated five bronze plaques in honor and memory of Pearl Beatty, Kenneth A. Gibson, Lebby Jones, Trish Morris-Yamba and Ramon Rivera on Sept. 18. Beatty was the first freeholder president under the current form of county government; Gibson was the first black mayor of Newark, serving for 16 years; Jones was an Irvington councilwoman and member of the Board of Freeholders; Morris-Yamba was the long-time executive director of The Newark Day Center and the Fresh Air Fund; and Rivera was the founder and former executive director of La Casa de Don Pedro. The plaques are located along Legends Way at the Essex County Government Complex in Newark.

“Pearl Beatty, Ken Gibson, Lebby Jones, Trish Morris-Yamba and Ramon Rivera each dedicated their lives to helping others, improving their community and putting the needs of others before their own. They each impacted the lives of many,” DiVincenzo said. “They are deserving of being remembered as Essex County legends and having their names at our government complex will remind people of their contributions.”

Elected officials extolled the inductees at the ceremony.

“I have had the privilege and honor of knowing and working with each one of these people,” Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver said. “Pearl Beatty served the community with strength and dignity. When she was elected, it was the first time in my life that I ever saw a black woman hold a political position. She set the standard for the others who followed,” Oliver said when presenting Beatty’s family with the memorial plaque.

“They all loved their community and believed in service, as well as community empowerment. Everyone benefited from the work they did,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said.

“Lebby Jones was a mentor and a true leader,” Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss said.

“Trish Morris-Yamba was a wonderful woman who gave so much. She loved children and led generations to a better life through her work,” Deputy Chief of Staff William Payne said.

“Ramon knew the importance of equity, inclusion and fairness. He was an amazing spirit at a time when there wasn’t a place for Latinos,” NJ State Sen. and Deputy Chief of Staff Teresa Ruiz said about Rivera.

“They all did great things for the community and they all were terrific people to work with,” Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura said.

“Each of the honorees today embody service and dedication to Essex County,” Freeholder President Brendan Gill said.

“It’s refreshing to know how they each touched our lives. I want to also thank their families for sharing them with us,” Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman LeRoy Jones said.

Each plaque contains a detailed biography of the individual, explaining the impact they made on Essex County. 

“Pearl brought honor to her family and the residents of Essex County. She was a brilliant mind who was ahead of her time. Having this plaque here will remind us all of her contributions,” said Beatty’s niece, Pamela Hodge.

Gibson’s wife, Camille, simply said, “Thank you. He was my hero.” 

“My aunt was someone who always told you the truth and always said things straight. She was a real genuine person,” said Tanisha Philips, Jones’ niece.

“What Trish did will outlive her life on this earth. She believed in the empowerment of children and women,” said Morris-Yamba’s husband, Zachary Yamba.

“We appreciate this so much because my father’s legacy will live on. He was a revolutionary, giving the community he represented a voice,” said Rivera’s son, Ramon Rivera.

Photos Courtesy of Essex County