Saint Peter’s Prep mourns the passing of Ms. Terry LaBruno, long-time faculty member and beloved friend to all in the Prep community. She died in the loving presence of her husband Joe on Monday, September 21, after a brief illness.
A funeral Mass for Ms. LaBruno will be celebrated at St. Ann’s Church in Hoboken this Saturday at 11 am. Attendance at the church will be strictly limited, but the church will provide a live video stream .
Ms. LaBruno came to Prep in 2009, already a highly-experienced math educator, veteran teacher and coach at Saint Mary High School in Jersey City, and public servant in Hoboken. She very quickly made her mark not only for her dogged determination to ensure that every student understood math, but also for her vociferous support of Prep’s student-athletes.
Prep Basketball Head Coach Alex Mirabel said: “Early in my career I really needed encouragement and she gave it to me; I felt her true support every day. She never missed a game and was a mother figure to the boys on the team. She was my eyes and ears in the school and helped many players academically. She meant so much to the basketball program!”
Jon Hilliman, ’14, who went on to attend Boston College, Rutgers University as a graduate transfer, and then to play football for the New York Giants, tweeted: “She came to EVERY GAME. EVERY SINGLE GAME. Even came to games at BC and RU. Stayed in touch through the ups and downs. This is a tough day. This hurts. She wasn’t even my teacher, she just loved and believed in me.”
Current student Lucas Hjertberg, ’22, wrote: “Ms. LaBruno was one of the most kind, caring, and compassionate people Prep has ever known. She helped kids feel like Prep could be their second home. Her classroom was a safe-haven for those struggling in school or even with problems outside of Prep. Beacons of hope and light like Ms. LaBruno are much needed in today’s world. Her vision for students and her strong belief in us, no matter what, should inspire all of us. We shall strive to uphold Ms. LaBruno’s legacy here at Prep every single day. “
Erin Stark, chair of the math department and close friend, said: “Terry’s students, and her love for them, were the center of her classroom. Terry was fearless when trying out new ideas and she passionately sought out methods to enable all of her students to be successful. Her classroom was full of activity until 5pm each day, at which point she often went directly to a student game, with her beloved husband Joe, to champion her students in yet another way. Terry’s joy for teaching and living echoed through our hallways. The Math Department is heartbroken at the loss of our friend and colleague.” This is echoed by long-time friend Pat Laguerre, assistant dean , history teacher and head baseball coach, who also previously taught with Ms. LaBruno at Saint Mary’s. He said: “Her unmatched enthusiasm was what she provided to our kids, but she shared her heart with all she loved.”
Another hallmark of Ms. LaBruno’s time at Prep was her intense and fierce devotion to Prep’s annual Mission Drive, held during Lent. Admissions Director John Irvine was lucky enough to be her homeroom co-teacher, and he recalls her saying: “J, some of these other teachers started collecting money before Christmas. We’re gonna have to step it up if we wanna finish on top.” He continues: “From auctioning off used items, to raffles for AirPods, to selling candy and juice boxes, nothing was off limits for the Mission Drive. As we would often say to each other, ‘It’s all for the kids!’.”
Ms. LaBruno retired from Prep in 2018, but quickly returned the next year on a part-time basis to work in the Browning Center. She enjoyed the one-on-one time with students (and was very happy to leave lesson planning and exams behind). Mary Durante, Director of Student Services, wrote this on the morning of Ms. LaBruno’s passing: “Terry dear, this morning some of the Browning juniors remembered your extraordinary, over the top, gymnastic efforts on their behalf, like how you raced out of the center and down to the math room to find an answer to a tricky question and raced back to help the student, and how you did that twice in one period. This was a common theme. Another theme was how you never gave up on them and encouraged them. The boys decided that we are going to honor you by “Being Like Ms. LaBruno,” that we are going to try our best, never give up, and support each other.”
Perhaps the person who’s known Ms. LaBruno the longest at Prep is Ms. Grace Gualario of the principal’s office. For years, the two Hoboken natives commuted together, often driving in the morning with Mr. LaBruno as chauffeur, and then walking home in the afternoons. Many confidences were shared and what started as a warm acquaintance developed into a deep friendship. Ms. Gualario says: “Terry was a perfect fit for Prep. She was a passionate person, a leader, strong, loyal, full of ideas, kind, and generous.” She recalls the closeness of the LaBruno family, starting from 7am birthday celebrations for the three daughters even after they left home, to great times at the beach, at the Feast of Saint Ann in Hoboken, and in recent years to wedding and baby showers. And who could forget the time that Ms. LaBruno almost drove off the road upon hearing that Ms. Gualario wasn’t a huge fan of Billy Joel’s? Ms. Gualario said that what she will remember so fondly about her good friend is the maxim, “Live like Terry.” That means living with love, without grudges or regrets, and with joy and appreciation for all the blessings.
Tony Azzarto, S.J. spent a lot of time with the LaBrunos, from attending games, to dinners, Theology on Tap, and lots of car time. “Joe always said that Terry ‘stirred the drink,’” Fr. Azzarto recalled. “She would organize birthday parties, trips to Florida and they would always check with each other on the use of the car and the games they planned to attend. When driving with them, the ‘triplets’ would be calling every 15 minutes; they loved their girls. Terry got Joe interested in the Prep games and he knew the players because of her. They were both Packer fans…her because of him. Sundays revolved around the Packer game and Joe would cook for 20.”
So many of Ms. LaBruno’s students from Prep and other schools remembered that she started each class with a recitation of the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference. Although the Prep family is broken-hearted, we are consoled by great memories of a wonderful, vivacious, loving, and compassionate friend and a passionate educator.
Terry LaBruno is survived by her adoring husband Joseph, her loving children Danielle, Tia, and Christina, her precious granddaughter Lena, the light of her life, her sons-in-law Nicholas and Tim (Prep, ’08), her sister Rose Cappiello and brothers Anthony, Joseph, and Daniel Cappiello and sister-in-law Maureen Cappiello. Terry is also survived by many devoted nieces and nephews—including nephew Patrick Cappiello, ’80 and great-nephew Patrick Cappiello, ’09—and her loving Saint Peter’s Prep family.
The family has asked that memorial donations be made to “Saint Peter’s Prep/Terry’s Mission Fund,” 144 Grand St. Jersey City, New Jersey 07302. All gifts will support the Prep Mission Drive.