WEST ORANGE, NJ — Louis LaSalle’s last day of work was April 30, the same date as his first day at RWJBarnabas Health in 1990 as the vice president of external affairs. He’s finishing his 31 years at the hospital as the senior vice president for corporate external affairs, a job that has seen him work extensively with the surrounding communities.
“It’s been a great road at the hospital,” LaSalle said in a phone interview with the West Orange Chronicle on April 26.
An active member in the West Orange Chamber of Commerce, the Millburn–Short Hills Chamber of Commerce and the Livingston Chamber of Commerce, LaSalle worked at St. Barnabas Hospital before it became part of the RWJ Health System. In charge of community sponsorships, events and other community projects, LaSalle has gotten to know many of the people outside his hometown of Roseland.
“It’s a wonderful mix of people that I never would have met otherwise,” he said. “It became a community job. I made those three towns a priority, and we shared a lot of the same views. It was a lot of giving back to the community.”
LaSalle has worked with every health division of the hospital, and spent a lot of time with cancer, lung and heart doctors. He’s worked with the American Heart Association for 57 years. In this last year, with the COVID-19 pandemic throwing everyone’s lives into disarray, but especially so for hospital workers and executives, he spent more time working from home.
“Computers and phones make a big difference,” he said. “A lot was virtual; we used Zoom and Webex. That was a discovery to me.”
Michael Knecht, the chief marketing and communications officer at RWJBarnabas, said in a statement to the staff about LaSalle that he would be given the title “senior vice president emeritus.”
“For those of us who know and work with Lou, we are certain that he can never truly retire,” Knecht said. “I am confident that Lou will continue to be a part of our extended family, attending events as an unofficial ambassador at large of RWJBH.”
LaSalle has been working for a long time: more than 60 years.
“That’s older than a few people I know,” he joked.
But he’s not planning on slowing down too much in retirement. He’s keeping his seat on the Roseland Planning Board and will remain president of the Essex County Parks Foundation, where he said Essex County Executive “Joe DiVincenzo keeps me busier than a one-armed paper hanger.”
Still, LaSalle will miss the West Orange, Millburn and Livingston communities that he has embedded himself in over the last 31 years. He’s planning to stay active with the volunteers in the towns.
“I spend more time there than I do in Roseland,” he said. “There are more volunteers than I’ve seen anywhere. So I’m planning on staying active there.”