IRVINGTON, NJ —
The funeral for 2014 mayoral candidate, longtime Irvington municipal employee and local Haitian community leader Jean Lamothe was at Eglise Baptiste de la Nouvelle Jerusalem Church on Saturday, April 2.
The church, located on Nye Avenue, just off Springfield Avenue and across the street from Civic Square, had an area outside cordoned off by Irvington Police to accommodate the hundreds of people who attended the funeral.
Lamothe died unexpectedly on Saturday, March 19. At his funeral, many of the people who knew him, both personally and due to his many good works they said he did, locally and throughout the state during his lifetime, came out to pay their respects to his life and legacy.
“It’s a sad day for Irvington,” said Mayor Tony Vauss on Saturday, April 2. “He was a good friend. Not only did he work for the township, I worked with him for many years and it’s just a sad occasion.”
Vauss said, even though Lamothe was one of his erstwhile political opponents when he ran for mayor in 2014, they never let that come between them or interfere with their friendship. In fact, after he won, Lamothe was one of his biggest supporters, urging all members of the township community to come together with the new mayor’s leadership for the greater benefit of Irvington.
“It’s all about representation and I think the Haitian community is represented well,” said Vauss. “We have several representatives: Charnette Frederic is the council president; Joseph Sylvain is a school board member; Luis Antilus is also a school board member, so we have Haitian representation throughout the town, and Jean was one of those people that represented the Haitian community, along with Thecy Faustin and a few other people as well. It’s a part of the process of inclusion. Even though Jean Lamothe and I ran at the same time for mayor, he was a friend of mine for about 17 years prior to that. We worked together. He felt that he could do a better job than the current mayor at that time, as did I, and we both ran for office. We remained friends throughout the entire campaign and we were able to move forward from there.”
Vauss said there are people that ran negative campaigns in 2014 and there were people who just wanted to do better for their community.
“Jean Lamothe was one of those people that wanted to do better for their community,” said Vauss. “Whether Jean won or lost, he was still my friend; he was still going to be my friend. So I never looked at it as a coming together moment with Jean, because we were always together throughout the campaign. And even during the campaign, we both said it: ‘We’re together; we’re friends, there’s no issue.’ It’s just a sobering moment when people who are involved in the community are no longer here. Stellar people like Jean Lamothe, Ron Alston, D. Bilal Beasley, Carl Sharif, Rep. Donald Payne Sr., Barry Jackson. Suddenly, we lose so many people. It kind of takes a toll after a while.”
Vauss said the only thing to do is go on and continue the legacy and get a younger generation of people to get involved. Frederic, Antilus and Sylvain said the mayor was right about carrying on Lamothe’s legacy.
Frederic also said, even though Vauss doesn’t view Lamothe becoming such a staunch supporter and advocate of “Team Tony” and Team Irvington Strong, after his defeat by them in 2014, as a “coming together” moment, in terms of their personal friendship, that was what it represented to many people in Irvington’s Haitian community. And she said Lamothe knew that and it was never more evident than in the way the entire township community, especially the Haitian community, has come together since his death.
“The whole township feels the loss of Jean Lamothe, because he did such an amazing job, working so hard to be a voice for a lot of the people that couldn’t speak the English language. He knew there was a need and he was there to support and help out,” said Frederic on Saturday, April 2. “At this time, it’s really painful, as we tell the family that the township of Irvington is there to support them however we can. One of the things that’s very important about Jean Lamothe was he was always there to talk to each other and one of the key things you can see with all of us right now — Joseph Sylvain, Luis Antilus and all of the leadership of the Haitian community — we talk with each other. We are here to support each other and that’s what’s key. As long as we can move and we can speak for those that cannot speak, that’s the most important for us and for leadership right now.”
Frederic said she is grateful for Lamothe’s life and grateful for “all of us that work together for the township of Irvington.” She said, whether you’re Haitian or not, it’s all about moving forward with the township and that’s one of the key things Lamothe was doing.
“Today, it’s a sad day that we’re burying one that has been fighting for the community; not only the Haitian community at large,” said Antilus on Saturday, April 2. “The city of Irvington is in grief. I met Lamothe in 2002 and again when I was running for my first school board election in 2004 and one of the things I know about this guy was, whatever he did while he was running for mayor, he did because he was trying to give Haitians a voice in this community. Unfortunately, he was not successful, but he was successful in many, many other areas that he decided to serve this community and, as you can see by the turnout, that can serve as a testament to what he’s done.”
Antilus said Lamothe’s funeral was a multicultural event that attracted the participations of not only Haitians, bit Americans, Spanish and everyone else as well. He said he knew Lamothe personally as a Christian and, as a God-fearing individual, “I know I’m going to see him again.”
Antilus and Sylvain said Lamothe opened the door of politics and many other avenues of life for them and every other Haitian in Irvington and now it is up to them and the other survivors, whose lives he touched, to ensure that his legacy and good works in life are not forgotten.
“It’s a very sad day because we lost one of the greatest servants in Irvington for many years,” said Sylvain on Saturday, April 2. “He was dedicated to serving the people and spent his entire life for the people. It’s sad now that we will never see him again. As you can see from all the people that came out for his funeral, he did so much for all of the people in Irvington, not just the Haitian community, but the entire community.”