East Orange renames corner after beloved soccer coach

East Orange named the corner of Park Avenue and North Clinton Street after longtime East Orange Campus High School girls soccer coach Osvaldo Antoine on March 17.

EAST ORANGE, NJ — The corner of Park Avenue and North Clinton Street was renamed Osvaldo Antoine Way on March 17 in honor of the East Orange resident and longtime East Orange Campus High School girls soccer team coach, who died on March 19 of last year. Antoine was the uncle of current 3rd Ward Councilman Bergson Leneus. At the ceremony, Leneus said the location of the renaming was significant for several reasons.

“Right behind me was the first Haitian-owned business in the city of East Orange,” he said at the ceremony, highlighting his family’s Haitian roots. “Down the street is Paul Robeson Stadium, where the Haitian Soccer League started in the state of New Jersey, which was cofounded by Osvaldo Antione. A few blocks from here is the former East Orange High School, where he graduated from.”

Holy Spirit & Our Lady Help of Christians Roman Catholic Church, which held the first Haitian church services in East Orange and where Antoine was a member, is just down the street. Not far away from that is EOCHS, where he coached the Lady Jaguars.

“This location has so much meaning to the family, and to the city and community at large,” Leneus said. “I am extremely proud to have the first street named after a Haitian American in the city of East Orange, and I’m proud to have it called Osvaldo Antoine Way.”

Mayor Ted Green was a longtime friend of Antoine’s; they were in the same class in high school and graduated together. He spoke at the ceremony about Antoine’s love of the sport he coached for so long.

“I never met a person, honestly, that loved soccer more than this guy,” Green said. “This is so good for our city, not only because of the contributions he made as a coach, but because of the contributions he made to his family and the contributions he made to the lives of so many young people. This is an opportunity to reflect on a gentleman who made a difference right here in the city of East Orange.”

Members of the Jaguars team that Antoine coached were at the unveiling of the street sign, as was current head coach Patrick Trentacost. Leneus said the extended Antoine family is large and spread across several different countries, but some of Antoine’s siblings, nieces and nephews were at the ceremony. So were two of his children.

Antoine’s daughter, Stephanie, spoke about her father’s life. Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Antoine moved with his family to the United States when he was 16 years old. He was the captain of the East Orange High School soccer team and graduated in 1981, before majoring in computer science at Jersey City State College. Antoine eventually became a tutor and a teacher of English as a second language at EOCHS and the STEM Academy of the Oranges.

“He spent more than 18 years at East Orange (Campus) High School and the STEM Academy, helping ESL students learn the English language and tutoring students in small groups,” Stephanie Antoine said. “He was well known for being the best soccer player of his generation and one of the few great players to be equally successful as a coach. It brought joy to his heart knowing he was supervising training sessions that developed general fitness and specific soccer skills. He was more than a great coach. It was something you could see immediately, a magnetic passion.”

Antoine’s son, Jeremiah, was also at the renaming ceremony to speak about his father.

“While living he was able to give a part of himself to everyone he met, and now he is a beating pulse in the center of every person he touched, unlocking us, giving us strength, joy and life,” Jeremiah Antoine said. “Most importantly, he leaves behind a legacy and will always be known as a respectable, loving man and the life of any party.”