Barbara “Bobbi” Cifelli-Sherry, who for decades served the public in many capacities, including as an elected official — as Second Ward councilwoman, trustee on the Board of Education and current deputy mayor, all in Kearny — died Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023.
She was 80.
Her political career was one that many who have lived in Kearny for a long time will recall with great fondness. Of the many committees she was a part of, she was chairwoman of police, which led to her getting the nickname “The Commish.”
The brother of current Hudson County Commissioner Albert Cifelli, she was married for many years to the late Dennis Sherry, who died all too soon. And yet, that horrible tragedy never slowed her down and never stopped her from being a Woman for Others in the town she loved more than most, if not all.
Utter love from a heartbroken community
Barbara was nearly, if not universally, loved by the people of West Hudson. And when news broke of her death Saturday morning, Aug. 12, scores of people took to expressing their grief and love for her surviving family.
Among them was Kearny’s interim Mayor Peter P. Santana, who once lived just a few houses away from Barbara on Davis Avenue before she moved from the Second to the Third Ward.
“It is with deep sadness that we mourn the passing of Deputy Mayor Barbara Cifelli-Sherry,” Santana said. “Many of those within the town of Kearny had the privilege of working with Barbara, and we will miss her tremendously. She had a deep commitment to public service, serving as Second Ward Councilmember and on the Board of Education. She also served as the chair of the police committee, supporting those who work within our public safety departments, as well as championing the departments as a whole. For that, she was affectionately known as ‘The Commish.’ She was also recently named as Kearny’s senior (citizen) of the year.
“Barbara was a leader, a colleague and a friend to the town of Kearny, and she never shied away from helping those among us who were most vulnerable, or could not speak for themselves. We will miss her voice as she loved the community of Kearny. Barbara leaves a large and loving family, and we send heartfelt condolences and prayers to them during this very difficult time.”
Meanwhile, Cifelli-Sherry’s longtime Council colleague and Council President Carol Jean Doyle also expressed her sentiments.
“Barbara Cifelli-Sherry, you are one of a kind and I will miss your political postings, your CJ calls, most of all your friendship,” Doyle said. “So many hearts are broken. Rest in peace my friend.”
Also among commenters was retired Kearny Fire Chief Steve Dyl.
“We are shocked. What a wonderful person,” Dyl wrote. “I enjoyed reading her thoughts, she always had an interesting perspective on issues. May she rest in peace. Our condolences.”
And there were many more.
“So very sad. What a tremendous loss,” Mary Jean Higgins wrote. “I will miss her forever, her grace, wit, kindness, community spirit. I could go on and on. I am keeping all of the Cifelli-Sherry families in my prayers.”
Former Kearny Councilwoman Alexa Arce, who served with Barbara, also chimed in.
“I’m so sorry to hear of her passing,” Arce wrote. “She was an amazing lady. She taught me so much while we served on the council together. I loved her wisdom and sense of humor.”
And we finish with the profound words of Deborah Lowry, who in her words perhaps best described what Barbara meant to this world.
“ …We are so incredibly saddened learning of your mom’s passing,” Lowry said in a comment to Barbara’s daughter Lori. “I know she had an impact on everyone she met and interacted with, including my family. It’s rare to have someone who encompasses just the right amount of love, sympathy, compassion, empathy and passion for people, issues, sports (go Giants), politics, Kearny as Barbara did. A rare beauty for sure. Sid and I send our heartfelt sympathy to you and your entire family.”
Barbara was also the mother of Lori Ann Castaneda (her husband Lucho), Timothy Sherry, Kimberly Barone, Coleen Rossi (her husband Dean), Dana Miley, David Kyak (his wife Tanny), Keith Kyak (his wife Susan), Nari Clark (her husband Jason) and Isabella Kyak. Also surviving are her cherished 15 grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and one on the way. Visiting will be Tuesday, Aug. 15, from 3 to 7 p.m., at the Armitage & Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. Mass will be celebrated Wednesday, Aug. 16, at 10 a.m. at St. Stephen’s Church in Kearny. Burial will be in Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington.
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.