TEANECK, N.J. — A few hundred people gathered at the corner of Selvage Avenue and Stasia Street in Teaneck Wednesday night to honor the life of their late, beloved Mayor Lizette Phillips Parker.
In a small ceremony, Township Manager William Broughton unveiled a new street sign renaming Selvage Avenue “Mayor Lizette P. Parker Way.”
Parker lived on that street with her husband, Anthony, and young daughter, Alyssa.
“We could have chosen to do nothing at all on a day like this and just had a quiet time, shed some tears,” Anthony Parker said.
“I’ve done enough of that all morning leading up to this,” he added. “She would have been very proud for us to all come together and to be together and acknowledge the wonderful things that she’s done.”
Public officials from the local to the Congressional level came or sent representatives to the event to remember Parker, the first African American woman to be elected mayor in Bergen County.
Parker, who was a social worker, died suddenly in April at age 44 of respiratory problems.
In testimonial after testimonial, people celebrated her ability to inspire and unite people and her love for youth.
“In death, she still gives back,” said Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin, noting that 300 backpacks have been collected in a campaign in her name to collect back-to-school supplies for local youths.
The public can continue to drop off supplies at 148 Church St. in Teaneck through Aug. 25.
Deputy Mayor Henry Pruitt said that when a new history of Teaneck is written, Parker will be “on the front page” because of the impact she made on the community.
“She said I was her mentor, but I learned far more from her than she did from me,” Pruitt said. “The only difference is I’m older.
“The saddest part about this kind of an event is if you’re dead, you never get to see this,” he added. “A recommendation I can make for everyone here: if you appreciate somebody, anybody, let them know about it while they’re on top of the turf.”
The Rev. Dr. Marilyn Monroe Harris of the First Baptist Church of Teaneck pointed the renamed street is Lizette P. Parker Way, which is apt because the Parker demonstrated the way life should be lived.
“Let’s close this out,” she said, “by putting your hands together and celebrating life.”
The townspeople people did just that, a mix of joy and pain on their faces.