A memorable man of Hoboken
Jun 29, 2014 | 2276 views | 3 3 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Dear Editor:

Last Nov. 5, 2013 had been a bitterly cold day of a long winter. It was Election Day and it was going to be a long and stressful day for anyone that worked hard on that day to get the word out for some issue or candidate that was on the ballot. The memory of that day vividly came back to me when I found out that one of our dear Hoboken residents, Tom Olivieri, died this past June 5, 2014.

The last time I saw Tom was on that Election Day when I worked with him for five hours until the polls closed. From 3 until 8 p.m. we were both on the corner of Willow and 11th Street right in front of the Wallace School polling station. Tom and I were working to inform people about the ballot issue which attempted to weaken rent control protections and which had already been defeated by the voters a year earlier.

During those hours, I got to know Tom and I was so proud and privileged to be working the street with him, informing voters who were going to the polls what was at stake with rent control in Hoboken. Tom had worked for tenant’s rights and fair housing for years before I had come into town.

I was impressed by his dedication to the causes he believed in as well as his gentle manner and his decency. He told me he was sick and was undergoing treatment and I was scared for him. I also was in disbelief that he was out on such a cold night working. It can be so tiring standing and going up to anyone that is walking by to explain the rent control issue on the ballot. At one point he went home to get another sweater and he brought me some coffee he made. He was a true gentlemen and I was honored when he commented how hard I was working that night. He was the consummate fighter striving for fairness and here he was regarding me with such respect. His kind words will always stay with me.

As the night wore on, a car drove around the block with a passenger yelling out at me, taunting and insulting me. Tom then shared with me that once, years ago on that very corner we were working, he was punched in the face by someone opposing his views. He sadly shook his head and wondered why people had to be vindictive or nasty when regarding fair housing. That never stopped him from fighting for anyone who was in danger of losing their home. He would fight that fight in some manner all the days of his life.

Many Hoboken residents were extremely sad to see the passing of such a fine, decent man. The gentleman is gone, but he will never be forgotten in Hoboken. Hoboken’s history has Tom Olivieri’s name forever linked within Hoboken’s evolution as a wonderful place many have and will call home.

Mary Ondrejka

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June 30, 2014
Dear Ms. Ondrejka,

Tommy had the same fervor in community causes in his beloved Luquillo at Puerto Rico. His empathy and compromise with his neighborhood made him win many fights in pro of justice in housing. He could paint a bench at recreational area in the living complex or visit the county's major to ask for his responsabilities with the citizens. Nothing was insignificant for him, every cause was a matter of honor.
June 30, 2014
Dear Ms. Ondrejka,

As I read your letter through tears in my eyes I just want to thank you for sharing such a beautiful memory of my father. He sacrificed so much for his community and the city of Hoboken that many don't know. Not only did he love his family he loved anyone he came across unconditionally. It didn't matter who you were or where you came from he treated everyone with the utmost respect.

Thank you.

July 11, 2014
Dear Vivian,

When I met you and your other siblings and your mother at your father's wake, I saw the profound legacy your father and mother left in their children. I was moved by you and your siblings calmness and genuine awareness of humanity that was reflected in the conversations I held with all of you. I am honored to have had the opportunity to witness Tom's continuing decency and goodness living within his wife and children. You were so lucky to have been nurtured by such profound, incredible parents. They made all the difference in the world for their children's future by all of you living on and continuing to make the relevancy of Tom's whole life experience an incredible gift to the world.

Quite sincerely with the utmost respect