Patricia Kiernan, Community Leader


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Patricia Ann Brunetto Kiernan, a community leader in Verona for over 60 years, died of complications from cancer at Clara Maass Medical Center on May 17.

Pat was born in Montclair on September 5, 1932 to the Honorable Frank J. Brunetto, Jr. and Ellen McGowan Brunetto; her father served with distinction as the municipal court judge in Montclair for 37 years. Raised in Montclair, Pat was a proud graduate of Mount St. Dominic Academy and the College of New Rochelle. As a college student, she traveled to Europe with her best friend, Mary Margaret Mahoney O’Donnell, and while in Italy they pooled their limited resources to buy a lace wedding veil, though neither had wedding plans at the time. The “W.V.,” as it came to be known, was eventually worn by 16 brides (and still counting): Pat, Mary Margaret, and 14 daughters, daughters-in-law, and granddaughters.

Pat taught elementary school before taking time off to raise her family and later studied for a masters’ degree in speech pathology. Always a teacher at heart, she encouraged her children to read and to exercise critical thinking skills. She loved a good argument about politics, especially with her late son-in-law Tom; neither changed the other’s mind.

She strongly believed that thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world and brought her considerable leadership skills to many projects at Our Lady of the Lake Church, where she served on the original parish council and founded the CARE program, the Verona Public Schools, where she was a member of the band parents’ committee, the Verona Eagles parents’ committee, the Girl Scouts, and many other social welfare agencies. She won numerous awards for her devotion to public service, including the Paul Harris Fellowship Award from Rotary International in 2003. In the 1990s, she founded and managed two not-for-profit consignment businesses that over the years generated several million dollars for charity. She served on the boards of United Way of North Essex, COPE Counseling Services, and the Verona Garden Club. She was a longtime member of the Montclair Golf Club and loved summers at the shore at her home in Bay Head.

Pat was married for 44 years to the late Robert E. Kiernan, Jr. and is survived by her sons Robert and his wife Mary Louise of Bronxville, N.Y.; Kevin and his wife Jennifer of Verona; and Chris and his wife Beth of Verona; and her daughter Kelly Largey of Quincy, Mass. She was most proud of her eight grandchildren: Marilee, Erin, Tommy, Bobby, Aidan, Kylie, Riley, and Maggie and was overjoyed by the February arrival of her first great-grandson Cormac.

She built friendships that endured decades. If she met you once, she remembered your name, and the names of everyone in your extended family. She never forgot a phone number. Many dear friends helped her when she struggled through her illness and, as her physical challenges mounted, she was grateful to be able to stay in the Verona home in which she lived for over 50 years with the help of her wonderful caregiver, Enid Cummings.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Pat’s name to the Endowment Trust of Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church, 22 Lakeside Ave, Verona, New Jersey 07044. Because of COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings, burial will be private. Pat treasured celebrating her faith at Mass and a memorial mass to honor her will be held when we can be together.

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