As coronavirus-related deaths and cases continued to mount, one of the communities hit hardest reeled at the news that COVID-19 had claimed one of its most beloved humanitarians.
Janice Preschel, who directed the Helping Hands Food Pantry in Teaneck, died Monday. She was 60.
Family members early Tuesday asked that people "take social distancing seriously" and honor her memory.
Preschel, a past president of the Teaneck Rotary, “was one of the kindest and most giving individuals I have ever met,” Deputy Mayor Elie Katz said.
The 1977 Teaneck High School graduate co-founded the pantry with Katz in 2008 and almost single-handedly “built it up to over 100 families served a week, plus Thanksgiving and Christmas events,” Katz said.
Several years ago, Preschel was admitted to Hackensack University Medical Center with pain in her arm.
A viral infection left her blind.
Despite her disability, the Massachusetts native “volunteered every single day,” Katz said. “She lived for serving her community. She was the definition of selfless.”
Preschel was hospitalized earlier this month with virus-like symptoms.
"Prior to her passing, Janice overheard the nurses at Holy Name Medical Center talking about how exhausted they were," Township Manager Dean Kazinci said. "She came up with the idea to provide restaurant gift certificates for the ICU nurses.
"Even when hospitalized, Janice continued to think of others. Janice was a true gift to all of us, and we can honor her memory by paying it forward as she always did."
Tributes continued to mount as word of Preschel's death from COVID-19 complications spread.
“My granddaughter and I met her at a Teaneck rally a couple of years ago,” wrote Minna Heilpern. “From that conversation we ended up volunteering a couple of times at the food pantry. Janice was so gracious and welcoming to my granddaughter. The food pantry is a testimony to Janice.”
"She was a beloved sister, aunt and friend to many," Kazinci said. "Janice always had a warm smile and was a kind, gentle soul. She always put the needs of others ahead of her own. As a community, we are heartbroken that she is no longer with us."
“Janice was a special woman, caring, loving, an emblem of all that was good, and kind and decent,” Barbara Ley Toffler wrote. “In this sad time, this is the saddest news of all.”
“Our hearts are broken,” Katz added. “She will be missed by everyone.”
Preschel's nephew, Eric Sutcliffe, posted this tribute:
David Rivara, owner of the Maywood Inn’s Twin Door Tavern, has died as a result of complications from the coronavirus, those close to him confirmed Tuesday.
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