By Stefanie Sears
For 89-year-old 2018 Cissy Laureys Senior Volunteer Award recipient Rita Politi, the inspiration behind her hard volunteer work is her nine children.
“Wherever my kids were, that’s where I was,” says Politi about her consistent investment in organizations.
Politi, formally Cerra, grew up in Carbondale, Pa., but has been a resident of East Hanover for 61 years and married to her Orange High School sweetheart husband, 89- year-old Ralph Sr., for 67. They owned Politi Auto Parts in East Hanover for 46 years until they sold it 10 years ago. Politi herself even ran her own sewing business from
home when her children were in school.
“It was therapy for me and I earned money doing that,” says Politi, “Mostly drapery, any kind of window treatment. I was able to establish myself with a company that I could purchase lines. And I did that for quite a few years. It’s been five years now since I’ve
stopped since I got older.”
Politi was around, and at times responsible, for plenty of organizations’ origins. For one, Politi’s children participated in the Police Athletic League (PAL), which was just becoming established when Politi got attached. PAL provided football for boys and
cheerleading for girls. Politi was known for making skirts.
Another organization Politi joined was the Recreation Commission in 1978. Here she met the now Mayor Joseph Pannullo, who nominated her for the award. The Recreation Commission is now the present-day Hanover Recreation Department.
However, Politi’s favorite is the “Friends of East Hanover,” a non-profit organization that helps special needs children and adults in the community. Politi has been an active member for about 42 years, a majority of the group’s existence.
“I wasn’t the initial one who started the group, but I joined up with it a year later. They needed someone to be a clown for Halloween, so I offered and that’s how I started with it,” says Politi, “Having nine healthy children and then seeing these kids try so hard, it
humbles you and makes you feel good that you can do something for them.”
Another memorable time of hers was working with the St. Rose of Lima Church. She and her husband are considered founders of the church because it was initially nonexistent.
Politi served as president and vice president of the St. Rose of Lima Rosary Altar Society, cared for altar linens and hand sewed baptismal cloths, and sang in the choir.
Politi has volunteered in many more areas in addition to these. However, at this point of her life, Politi feels satisfied with her work. Her greatest accomplishment she says is, of course, her children and instilling into them the importance of hard work.
Politi’s latest endeavor, in fact, is the Ralph Politi Jr. Memorial Foundation, a non-profit that awards scholarships Hanover Park and Whippany Park High School qualifying seniors, as well as provide for anyone else in need, set up in memory of her late son.
“Whatever you sow, you reap. Helping others was a thank you to the Good Lord for all he had given us. Healthy children is number one, and decent kids. They weren’t perfect, but they were decent.”
When Morris County Clerk Attorney Ann F. Grossi presented Politi with the recognition during the Cecilia “Cissy” Laureys Senior Volunteer Award Ceremony at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morris Township on May 22, Politi’s children Mary, Karen,
Donna, Deborah, Rachel, Susan, Rita, Jimmy, and Ralph Jr. (who was there in spirit) were all in attendance.
“I have to really credit my husband and my family because they always stood behind me
with whatever I did,” she said. “I always had them to back me up. It was their award besides mine. It seems funny to get an award for something that you enjoy doing. You feel humbled because it’s something you love doing. For me, it’s a payback.”