Obituary of Angela Perun
Angela Perun BY ALEXI FRIEDMAN Star-Ledger Staff "Angela Perun hated polite conversation almost as much as she hated boring people. "Do something" was her motto. Lead, follow or get out of the way. Ms. Perun, a former Plainfield city councilwoman and state assemblywoman, was also a firm believer in the two-party political system, but wouldn't be pigeon-holed, said her son, Alan Perun. When she grew frustrated with the party's direction, the outspoken but courtly legislator ran for re-election to the Assembly as a registered Republican. The move cost the longtime Plainfield resident that 1985 re-election bid, but didn't sour her on politics or public service, her son said. Ms. Perun, 86, died Saturday at her home, of complications from pancreatic cancer. She kept up a busy schedule deep into her life. She was a member of the NAACP, was an advocate for the homeless, pressed for animal rights and, last year, ran unsuccessfully for city council on the Republican line against a heavily-favored Democratic incumbent. "At a time when most women were retired, traveling and doting over their grandchildren, she was still advocating for causes near and dear," said her friend and Plainfield Republican Party chairwoman, Sandy Spector. She grew up during the Depression, the daughter of Italian immigrants, with poverty never far away, Alan Perun said. Her parents worked in the Garment District, and Ms. Perun used to say she got her determination from her mother, who was a labor leader. Ms. Perun, her son said, never stopped working or stirring the pot. In fact, she joined Spector and six others in a lawsuit last year against Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, contending the mayor hadn't lived in the city long enough to satisfy its residential requirement. A judge dismissed the suit later that year. At Monday night's council meeting, Robinson-Briggs paid tribute to Ms. Perun's years of service to Plainfield. "We're going to miss her," the mayor told the audience. "She had a real fight to her." Angela Spina was born in Greenwich Village, to Fillipo and Rosa Spina. The family -- including Angela's three sisters and one brother -- moved to the North Bronx, then to Yonkers. Ms. Perun graduated from Hunter College, majoring in chemistry and minoring in physics. She became a chemist, working for more than a decade, most of it with then-Union Carbide in Bound Brook. "But something else was pulling her," her son said. "She always had that fire in her belly to learn." By that time, Ms. Perun was a mother, in her mid 30s and married to Walter Perun -- they separated years later and he died in 1999. She went on to law school, graduated from Seton Hall University in Newark, and became a trial lawyer for Allstate insurance, working in its Cranford office. In 1973, she moved to Plainfield, around the time she and her husband separated. That was when Ms. Perun immersed herself in Plainfield, and was elected as a Democrat to the city council in 1978, eventually becoming council president. "She always wanted to be in politics," Alan Perun said. "The idea you could change things, influence things." In 1982, Ms. Perun won a seat in the Assembly, but expressed differences with the party organization and wasn't nominated for a second term. So she became a Republican, despite Plainfield's overwhelming Democratic constituency, and was defeated in the general election. "She wasn't going to change her ideals just to play the game," her son said. Ms. Perun never abandoned politics, running unsuccessfully for council in 1998 and again last year, when Rashid Burney defeated her 1,134 to 837. Laddie Wyatt, Plainfield city clerk, called Ms. Perun an articulate spokeswoman for the poor and disadvantaged, and a stickler for the rules, especially when it came to the city council. As a member of the audience, she always got to say her peace. "She'd tell them that was her right," Wyatt said. "She was a feisty lady." In addition to her son, Ms. Perun is survived by her siblings, Philip Spina, Dorothy Pirone, Gloria Velto and Marilyn Kenul; and grandchildren, Jason and Caitlin Perun. " Family and friend are invited to a memorial service celebrating her life on Saturday December 1, 2007 at the First Unitarian Society of Plainfield, 724 Park Avenue, Plainfield, NJ. 07060 at 11:00 AM. A luncheon will follow services. Visitation services will be held on Wednesday November 21, 2007 from 2-4 PM & 7-9 PM in the McCriskin - Gustafson Home For Funerals, 2425 Plainfield Avenue, South Plainfield, NJ 07080. Committal services will take place on Friday November 23, 2007 in St. Mary's Cemetery Yonkers, NY. A gathering of family and friends will begin on Friday at 9:00 AM in the funeral home. In lieu of flowers donations in her memory may be made to Popcorn Park Zoo Animal Park & Sanctuary, P.O. Box 43, Forked River, NJ 08731.