Teaneck—Lizette Parker, 44, was heralded by all who knew her as a tireless public servant and an unassuming, thoughtful presence on the Teaneck Town Council since her election in 2006. Elected mayor from among her colleagues in 2014, she was a social worker for Bergen County and held numerous additional leadership posts in various organizations. She was particularly active in youth advocacy and women’s African American leadership causes. Her legacy of bringing people together with her fair-minded presence was a common thread mentioned by her colleagues when reached by The Jewish Link.
Parker died suddenly at Holy Name Hospital after experiencing trouble breathing on Sunday, April 24, which shocked many in the community when they heard the news Sunday evening as the first days of the Passover holiday concluded. She was buried last Saturday, April 30. Husband Anthony, 4-year-old daughter Alyssa, mother Dolores and brother Timothy were all extended deep condolences by the entire community.
Parker’s colleagues on the diverse town council, which includes representatives of Teaneck’s African American, Orthodox Jewish and Muslim communities, shared grieved comments that communicated shock, sadness and a great deal of personal loss on her untimely passing.
One theme of Parker’s leadership was that she was a uniter in a community that has, at times, been beset by disparate opinions. “Lizette brought us together in so many ways. She was the best of the council. I lost a friend, but her family lost so much more,” said councilman and former mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin, who served as mayor for four years just before Parker’s tenure as mayor began.
Deputy Mayor Elie Katz, who has been an elected member of the town council for the past 19 years, shared his feelings of “deep regret, sadness and a heavy heart,” as he made the announcement of Parker’s passing on behalf of the town. “Lizette Parker was a humble and dedicated public official who devoted her life to helping other people. I was honored to call her my mayor and proud to call her my friend.”
Katz added that Parker had accomplished and brought more progress to benefit Teaneck residents than many past mayors combined. “She was an excellent role model and wonderful advocate for our youth, and the council is committed to continue the good work that she started,” he said. Katz was automatically named acting mayor and will remain so until a July 1 council reorganization meeting, when a mayor will be elected from among the new council elected as a result of the May 10 election to fill three council seats. As per state code, the council also may have the power to determine if a replacement will be appointed in the near term or elected in the November election.
Councilman Mark Schwartz, who is also JLNJ’s co-publisher, served with Parker since his arrival on the council in 2012. He described Parker’s gentle yet powerful impact on the council, which was otherwise composed entirely of men. “When Lizette walked into a room, you felt her presence. You felt her class. You knew this was a woman who woke up respecting everybody, which in turn taught me to always respect others, regardless of how low they can go attacking you,” he said.
“She always would say to me privately (which I can now sadly share) that we need to do what’s right for the town, regardless of what the frequent dozen or so critics and gadflys would say. ‘You won’t ever make them happy but you will make the town a better place.’”
Councilman Alan Sohn served with Parker for the past two years. He also expressed shock and sadness at the sudden loss of Parker. “I was always impressed with her as a tireless advocate for her family, the causes she believed in and the Township of Teaneck and its residents.”
Sohn added that he had worked with Parker extensively as a member of the council’s monuments and memorials subcommittee. “I was privileged to work with Mayor Parker behind the scenes on the introduction and unanimous passage of a resolution that moved forward the establishment of sites on the Municipal Green for a Holocaust Memorial and an Enslaved Africans Memorial. This resolution was passed at our March 22 meeting, one of the last that she was able to attend, and it was very meaningful to me and to all involved that she was able to be there as part of this project that embodies the spirit of mutual cooperation in our township.”
Councilman Jason Castle, also elected in 2014, described feeling “deep sadness, a heavy heart and tremendous disbelief on the loss of Parker.”
“Lizette has long served as a strong and tireless advocate for Teaneck; working side by side with her on the council for these last two years has been a privilege. Both during her years as mayor and councilperson and before as a resident and community leader, Lizette sponsored and supported numerous initiatives and actions that improved our township and the quality of life of our residents.
“As mayor, she was always willing to make time to listen to the concerns and troubles of her neighbors and would work with them to help solve their problems. Even when Lizette and I were on opposing sides of an issue, I was always impressed by both the passion with which she advocated for her beliefs and her constant desire to find unanimity on the council on even the most contested issues. Lizette was always both passionate and thoughtful, bringing a depth to the discussions and debates about the future of our community,” said Castle.
The Jewish Link joins all of Teaneck in expressing our deepest condolences to Anthony, Alyssa, Dolores, Timothy and all those who were touched by the inspiring life of our mayor. In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations be sent to: The Alyssa Parker Scholarship Fund, c/o Mt. Olive Baptist Church, 260 Central Avenue, Hackensack, NJ 07601.
By Elizabeth Kratz