Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Outbreak

Due to the COVID-19 statewide public health emergency, the County of Union is open for essential business only. View alerts and service modifications.

Elizabeth

Arcelia Castillo

Marine Corps boot camp was an easy fit for Anthony Roman. He had already been trained by a tough, stubborn disciplinarian whom he nicknamed the Colombian Drill Instructor: his mother, Arcelia Castillo.

At home in Elizabeth, N.J., Ms. Castillo, a single mother always juggling two jobs and night school, enforced strict curfews and did not tolerate back talk or wasting money. If Anthony or his brother, Alex, broke rules, Ms. Castillo, scarcely five feet tall, would reach for her belt.

The eldest of 11, Ms. Castillo, 49, had immigrated to the United States at 20, penniless, speaking no English and with only an elementary school education. But by Sept. 11, 2001, she was a homeowner and landlady, an American citizen, a junior accountant at Marsh & McLennan and a few credits shy of her associate’s degree from Union County College. She had a companion of 14 years, Edward Skrypa, whom she wouldn’t marry because she preferred independence.

Ms. Castillo, who was called Chela, had four grandchildren, whom she uncharacteristically spoiled with presents. “We loved to tease her that she was just trying to get to heaven,” said Sergeant Roman, a Marine Corps reservist.

She kept all his letters, including the one where he told her she was his hero.

Carlos S. DaCosta

All the houses on his block in the Elmora section of Elizabeth, N.J.. were well kept and aging in a graceful, uniform way. But Carlos DaCosta’s property stood out, its individuality coming from a three-foot-high concrete and wrought iron fence constructed in the style of walls in Portugal.

That fence — the only one on that side of the street — was built by Mr. DaCosta and his father-in-law. Even after more than 30 years in the United States, Mr. DaCosta, who had been born in Portugal, showed off his native culture whenever possible. “There was a special place in his heart for Portugal,” said his younger sister, Celeste. “He loved Portuguese culture, and Portuguese food.” Mr. DaCosta, 41, regularly took friends to the Portuguese restaurants in Newark’s Ironbound section. On special occasions, he would take Portuguese pastries to his office at the World Trade Center, where he was general manager of building services for the Port Authority.

Mr. DaCosta spoke only Portuguese at home to make sure that his two children learned the language, and he tried to make them aware of how big and diverse a world this is. “Carlos was fascinated by different cultures,” said Antoinette Viana, a friend since high school. “He would take his kids anywhere that would seem different.”

Colleen Laura Fraser

Colleen, an advocate for people with disabilities for 20 years, served on the [New Jersey Developmental Disabilities Council] for more than 11 years. She was appointed chair of the Council by Governor James Florio in 1990 and served in that position for five years. In July, she was elected by the Council as its vice-chair.

Colleen was recently hired as executive director of the Progressive Center for Independent Living (PCIL), the independent living center for Mercer and Hunterdon counties and is president of the board of Community Access Unlimited, an Elizabeth-based non-profit agency providing housing, employment and support services for 7,000 people with disabilities. She was on her way to a seminar on grant writing, to boost her skills for her new job at PCIL when her plane went down. Over her career she served as director of the Union County Office on the Disabled and as the director of D.I.A.L., another independent living center.

Colleen is well known statewide as a leading voice for people with disabilities. She advocated strongly for community living options for people with developmental disabilities, urging the state to move more quickly to end the institutionalization of more the 1,500 people still living in the state’s large developmental centers who have been determined ready to move and who want to move. She also worked tirelessly to promote the importance of listening to people with disabilities about the supports they need and making sure those supports meet those needs.

Colleen had also established a national reputation for her fiery advocacy on behalf of people with disabilities. She was instrumental in launching a statewide initiative to improve health care for women with disabilities following her participation in a national conference on the same topic. She joined other New Jersey advocates to lead the largest state contingent supporting the ADA at the first congressional hearing on that landmark legislation.

Recently she led a group of people with disabilities to a “Speak Out” on deinstitutionalization in Washington. This event typified her passionate support of the 1998 Supreme Court decision, Olmstead vs. L.C., which ruled it was a violation of a person’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act to keep them in an institutional setting past the time when it had been determined to be appropriate. Colleen believed this landmark decision was a key component to her ongoing efforts to get people with disabilities out of institutions and nursing homes.

Margaret Susan Lewis

Margaret Lewis of Elizabeth was a traveler. Atlantic City was her second home and the Bahamas was probably her third, said her brother, Kevin Lewis.

“And everywhere else she could get to, she was there,” he said.

After work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Miss Lewis would often hop a bus for Atlantic City so she could relax and test her luck at the slot machines. Then she’d go back again on most Sundays, her friends and family said.

“The girl was crazy about Atlantic City,” said her best friend, Jo Anne Pryor. “She kept going back. She said, ‘It’s just peaceful.’ I’m like, ‘How could it be with all those bells ringing?’

“She gets a charge from hearing the bells ringing,” Pryor said, adding that Miss Lewis’ last trip to Atlantic City was the Thursday before the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Miss Lewis, 49, worked for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as a legal secretary. Her office was on the 68th floor of the Trade Center’s North Tower.

She was at work when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the building Sept. 11.

Miss Lewis loved her job, Pryor said. It was a job she had dreamed about long before she was offered a position with the Port Authority in 1988. She prepared for it by attending Union County College in 1987 to train as a secretary, then again in 1994 to improve her speedwriting, Pryor said.

Miss Lewis had two sons, John, 32, and Melvin, 31, and even though they were grown, she doted on them as much as when they were children.

“From the time they were born, she would pinch their cheeks,” Pryor said. “She still did that with them. When she’d see them, she just brightened up.”

John Lewis said he never minded his mother’s outward displays of affection.

“That’s a mommy thing, I guess,” he said.

Lewis said he last saw his mother on the morning of the attacks, when he dropped her off at the train station.

Miss Lewis and her sons lived together in Elizabeth, and John Lewis said the house often was filled with children.

“When I got my niece and nephews, or my kids around, it was all about making her laugh,” he said.

But Miss Lewis also saved time for herself. In addition to her trips to Atlantic City, she took an annual cruise to the Bahamas. “It was good for her sinuses and to get some good air,” he said. “When she’d get back, she was perky. She was cleansed.”

In addition to her sons and brother, all of whom are from Elizabeth, Miss Lewis is survived her mother, Rebecca Lewis of Elizabeth; a sister, Lula Parker of Rahway; and 10 grandchildren.

Frankie Serrano

When Frankie Serrano went shopping for Dino, he spared no expense. “He totally spoiled Dino,” said Mr. Serrano’s girlfriend, Kristen Gasiorowski. “All the toys he bought him, you can’t imagine. It was like it was his child.” In fact, Dino was a dog, a year-old Neopolitan mastiff who weighed in at 109 pounds and slept in a king-size dog bed.

Mr. Serrano, a telecommunications technician at Genuity, a network services provider, lived in Elizabeth, N.J., with his mother and his sister Angie. The three of them were to go to Puerto Rico on Sept. 14 to visit relatives, but Mr. Serrano was going to be back by Sept. 23, to spend his 25th birthday with Miss Gasiorowski.

His sport was bowling: he was a member of four leagues in Roselle, N.J. He liked music from the 50’s and 60’s, rooted for the Mets and the Giants, preferred to eat at McDonald’s and dressed only in Ralph Lauren. “Anything else he wouldn’t wear,” said Ms. Gasiorowski, who now takes care of Dino. “It was kind of crazy and expensive.”

It would take Mr. Serrano about half an hour, and four elevators, to get from the basement of 1 World Trade Center to his job on the 110th floor, where he worked in a room without windows. “We were the highest around-the-clock tenants,” said his supervisor, Joseph Conti. “We were up there 365 days a year.”

Anthony Tempesta

The World Trade Center had a wealth of family history: Anthony Tempesta, had proposed to his wife, Ana, at Windows on the World. And Mr. Tempesta, 38, a broker, and his mother worked on the same floor at Cantor Fitzgerald, but she did not have to start work until 9 a.m., and he was in at 7:30 a.m.

Growing up in Staten Island, Mr. Tempesta learned how to play the bass guitar when he was just out of high school, by taking two trains and a ferry to classes in Harlem. One of his favorite audiences? His daughter, Amanda, 7, and her friends. (He also had a son, Matthew, 10.) He had to reschedule one of Amanda’s sleepovers, because he had to attend his brother Michael’s bachelor party. “Anthony explained he had to be at the sleepover because he was the entertainment,” Clifford Tempesta said at his son’s memorial service.

The family decided Michael’s wedding, Sept. 23, should continue as planned. “He wouldn’t want to be like a party pooper,” Clifford Tempesta said. And at the end of his eulogy, he said, “I know Anthony would like to hear one last round of applause.”