BLOOMFIELD, NJ — A Bloomfield School District classroom was dedicated at the Early Childhood Learning Center on Tuesday, Nov. 15, to a teacher who died at age 35.
The teacher, Lauren Marek, was the supervisor of special education at the school, and colleagues throughout the district came to pay their respects. Marek died in December 2021 of COVID-19.
Marek was a hometown girl — Bloomfield High School, Class of 2004 — who got to know her future husband, John, also a BHS graduate, when they worked at Angelo’s Restaurant & Pizzeria on Broad Street.
“She was my work daughter,” ECLC Principal Linda Colucci said of Marek. “Whenever we had discussions about work, I spoke to her as if she was my daughter.”
Colucci said Marek meant a lot to the entire staff. Marek’s motto, “We’ve got this,” became the school’s mantra when facing a problem.
“When people wondered what to do,” Colucci said, “she’d say, ‘Calm down; we’ve got this.’ She was just the glue.”
According to Colucci, Marek was too important to the school not to create a space in the building dedicated to her.
When Marek died, she was a supervisor and, consequently, teachers lost the support she gave them. The principal lost something, too.
“I have her first badge, her first identification card, taped to my desk,” Colucci said. “I talk to her every day. ‘Lauren, how are we going to do this? What are we going to do?’ She said, as a team, we’re all bright and care about the kids, so no matter the problem, we’ll figure it out. The room that was dedicated to her, everyone in the district wanted this.”
Marek’s husband, John, said in a recent telephone interview that he was three years older than his wife.
“Believe it or not, she was friends with my sister, Dana, but I didn’t know that,” he said. “We met when she was in high school and I was in college.”
John Marek attended Seton Hall University.
“We worked together at Angelo’s,” he continued. “It’s funny, because we started hanging outside together at the pizzeria. The more we hung out, the more we started to like each other and started dating.”
John Marek said Lauren, whose maiden name was Lipoma, would drive him back to the Seton Hall campus in South Orange.
“Lauren ended up going to Seton Hall herself,” he said. “You never expect when you meet someone and it turns into that.”
The couple were married in June 2012.
“We bought a home in West Caldwell a couple of months before our wedding day,” he said. “We moved into the house the day after we got married. We got married on Saturday, June 9, 2012, and moved in on June 10.”
The couple was married at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Bloomfield and later had two children.
Lauren Marek loved her job, her husband said.
“She was a difference maker,” he said. “It’s hard to explain. She wanted these kids to have the best start they could have, on the best foot.”
Colucci said the room dedicated to Lauren Marek was originally for storage. But Lauren Marek had promised a new space for the child study team shortly before she died.
“The room is here because of Lauren’s promise before she passed away,” Colucci said. “When we came back in January, after she passed away, I went to Sal Goncalves, the superintendent of schools, and told him we have to keep Lauren’s promise. He said, ‘Make it happen.’”
But the bigger picture, Colucci said, is that with the passing of Lauren Marek, Bloomfield really has lost one of its own.
Photos by Daniel Jackovino