A woman who died after being hit by a car after she crossed Bloomfield Avenue in Verona Tuesday night has been identified as a Newark school teacher named Marie Trusits.
On Thursday, friends and family remembered her as a creative and lively person who loved to make students and friends laugh.
Trustis, 54, a teacher at St. Michael's School in Newark until 2008, was walking across Bloomfield Avenue around 8:52 p.m. when she was struck by an Acura sedan traveling westbound on the street, Verona Police Capt. Mitchell Stern said Thursday.
Priscilla Calderon, a 2007 St. Michael’s School graduate, said as a teacher, Trusits had a reputation of being disciplined and made sure her students were well behaved.
“She was a soft-spoken teacher,” Calderon said, “she wouldn’t yell unless she had to.”
Calderon described Trusits as both kind and lively — “someone who loved to make her students laugh,” something teachers and friends acknowledged as well.
St. Michael’s School principal Linda Perino as well as Trusits’ best friend and fellow teacher Bobbi Ann Pampinella also enjoyed her humor, saying Trusits was “dramatically able to give comebacks and then burst out laughing.”
“She was able to come up with stupid ideas out of instinct,” Pampinella said, adding, “she was an actress 24 hours a day.”
Perino said Trusits used to enjoy making her friends laugh at restaurants by ordering food by breaking the food down into food groups saying she wanted foods with only a certain amount of fat, a certain percentage of protein, etc.
“Her eating habits were quite unique,” her friends said laughing.
But Perino said Trusits sometimes struggled walking the fine line between teacher and friend.
“She was strict,” the principal said, “but she was also more open to allowing students to express themselves.”
Both Perino and Pampinella revealed Trusits used to keep thank you letters on her home refrigerator from students praising the teacher for being caring or helping them.
“She was overwhelmed by the letters,” Pampinella said, “and the feedback was tremendous.”
For instance, Pampinella said Trusits made the extra effort of making a point of “writing little notes in the margin of papers encouraging her students and telling them how to do a better job.”
Most teachers might just say something was wrong, Pampinella said, but Trusits went the extra step.
Student Melanie Mendoza said Trusits was her 7th grade teacher and remembered her as “reassuring” and someone who also "found time to be goofy."
“It’s so sad about what happened,” Mendoza said. “She was a great teacher who always put best foot forward. I got the best education.”
Mendoza also said Trusits was a good listener.
“She listened on my down days,” Mendoza said and went out of her way to help her students.
“I would talk to her,” Calderon said, adding one life lesson Trusits taught her was “in life, stuff is thrown at you and it isn’t always easy. People will not always like you and you must learn to look past it.”
Both Pampinella and Perino said Trusits, who graduated from Clarion University of Pennsylvania, taught drama after school — hosting an improvisational performance at the end of the year in Newark and giving out medals to the students.
“Considering her background in drama and acting,” Perino said, “she took that into classroom. She was dramatic about teaching.”
Trusits also wrote plays, enjoyed going to playwriting workshops and went to studios, as well as being an avid reader, her friends say.
“She was always in the library,” Pampinella said, “and always seeing small, artsy movies.”
Since Trusits left St. Michael’s School in 2008, her friends say, she has been substitute teaching in area schools in Verona, Cedar Grove, West Orange and Montclair.
Calderon said the last time she saw Trusits was at Calderon's 2007 graduation. When she heard about her death, Calderon admitted she looked at her yearbook last night and reread the message Trusits wrote to her in which told Calderon she would miss her in her classroom and miss her leadership.
Trusits’ funeral arrangements are pending.
Meanwhile, Stern characterized the accident as an “open investigation” Thursday and said police are still seeking information.
Perino said she regrets Trusits “left this world so young and was not able to show the world who she was.”
“She was a beautiful person and not many people saw that,” she said.