Dear Co-op Community,
We are so sad to inform you of the passing of our beloved founder Lauretta Freeman. Lauretta passed away on March 24 after a brief illness. We at the Co-op are all mourning the loss of her vibrant spirit. We will keep you updated when arrangements for a celebration of Lauretta’s life are finalized. Until we can gather in person to honor the force of nature that was Lauretta Freeman we’d like to share some thoughts from our community in gratitude for an exceptionally well-lived life. We are deeply appreciative of the many gifts that Lauretta shared with the Co-op community and so many other individuals and organizations in Essex County and beyond. Lauretta created a great big village and we are proud to have been a part of her vision for a more just and equitable world.
“I am so grateful in this time of sadness and loss, that the Co-op did right by Lauretta before she left us, with Jami and Julie’s vision: Involving the entire community – parents and children alike, to participate in imagining and creating a beautiful tribute to honor her. The preparations, filming, interviews, class visits, etc. filled her last weeks with almost “giddy” joy and anticipation. The experiences in recent weeks which connected her to Co-op students and adults in ways that spoke of our gratitude and love for her, were so valued and appreciated – her room at the nursing home had a special wall filled with Co-op students’ letters and art work she received in the past few weeks! We thank and honor her for creating this realized vision of a benevolent and caring learning environment which works for children of all ages – and for their families who share these values.”
– Judy Bereczki, Eighth Grade
“She was an indomitable human, who thoughtfully considered and offered so much care for the reality of the complex lives and hearts of children, worked for equity and justice all her life, and was a true model for all of us in growing older with grace and engagement in the world. I am thankful for her presence in the world, and glad she knew she was appreciated here.”
– Chris Posluszny, Second Grade
“Lauretta was my professor at Montclair State, and when she spoke of this magical place where children could be safe, nurtured, heard, respected and loved I knew that was the place I needed to be. I was called to the Co-op, as were each of you. We all have different stories, but we all have a common goal. Let’s let Lauretta be our guiding light through these times and keep those connections with our students going. Let them be seen, heard, respected, nurtured and loved.”
– Jennifer May, Early Ages
“I probably first met Lauretta when I was three at an early childhood conference in California. My mom fondly reminded me of how much we liked one another from the start. I’m comforted by the fact that she was aware of how much she was and is appreciated.
– Andrea Lee, Pre-K
“With Lauretta’s death, I also honor her role as teacher, not only to my two boys but to me and every child and parent who interacted with her at the Co-op. At this time of uncertainty, I pay tribute to her kindness, generosity of heart, patience, and optimism. I am reminded of a poem by W.S. Merwin: “Your absence runs through me/Like thread through a needle/Everything I do is stitched with its color.” As teachers, may we be filled with Lauretta’s color.”
– Suzanne Nakamura, Seventh Grade
“Lauretta spoke about Co-op kids with the most joyful expression and conveyed unwavering confidence in their growing abilities to lead and thrive in an ever changing, unpredictable world. She shared about Co-op kids ability to notice aspects of their environment and determine how they can impact it and find their useful place. She spoke with equal joy and pride about Co-op teachers’ dedication to bringing out the best in each individual child and helping them thrive within the community.”
– Julie DeCheser, Co-op parent
Messages of condolence or special memories can be shared in the post honoring Ms. Freeman on the Co-op’s Facebook page (@montclaircoop).