(Cherry Hill, N.J.) – Councilman N. John Amato, the longest-serving Councilman in Cherry Hill history, passed away Thursday night after a long and hard-fought battle with cancer. He was 82.
Councilman Amato was first elected to Cherry Hill’s governing body in 1983, and served the community continuously for the last 30 years.
“Our hearts are heavy today, as we mourn the loss of our beloved friend and mentor,” Mayor Chuck Cahn said. “I got to know John very well when we ran for office together three years ago, and he quickly took me under his wing and shared his tremendous depth of knowledge about Cherry Hill and local government. It has been a pleasure to serve alongside John, and an even greater honor to call him my friend. He will be forever remembered as a special person whose dedication to Cherry Hill was unparalleled. He will be deeply missed.”
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Councilman Amato was a veteran of the United States Army, and moved with his family to the Township’s Erlton South neighborhood in 1963. Amato remained in Erlton for 51 years. This July, he was honored as the Grand Marshal of the neighborhood’s July 4 parade.
Amato is survived by his daughters, Rosemary and Irena, and grandchildren Michael and Francesca. His beloved wife, Marion, died in 2012.
Amato was active in the Sons of Italy and served on the boards of the Camden County Vocational Schools and the YALE School for children with special needs. He was a Eucharistic minister and lector at the Queen of Heaven Roman Catholic Church.
In August 2012, the Township marked Amato’s 80th birthday by dedicating its council meeting room as the N. John Amato Council Chambers.
Council President David Fleisher served with Councilman Amato for 15 years and called him a colleague, a mentor, and friend.
“John represented everything right about public service,” Fleisher said. “He was accessible, smart, and devoted to improving the lives of the people he served. Council has lost a giant – a leader, a friend, and a Cherry Hill institution. I know I speak for everyone on Council when I say that we will miss him dearly.”
Amato served with five mayors: Maria Barnaby Greenwald, Susan Bass Levin, Art Simons, Bernie Platt and Mayor Cahn. He was elected Council president and vice president at different points throughout his career, but on several occasions willingly relinquished those titles to give younger council members their chance to shine.
Former Mayor Susan Bass Levin remembered her friend of nearly 30 years, and his lasting impact on the community he loved.
“He was a mentor to me, and to so many others who were part of Cherry Hill government,” Levin said. “I could always count on John to do what was right, what was best for the people of Cherry Hill. John was especially proud of the Erlton Park, the Cherry Hill Library and revitalizing the west side. Without his leadership, Cherry Hill would not be what it is today. Good night, Santa. Cherry Hill lost a great man today.”
Funeral arrangements were still pending as of Friday morning. In lieu of flowers, contributions in his memory may be made to The Cooper Foundation, One Cooper Plaza, Camden, NJ 08103.
In honor of Councilman Amato’s life and contributions to Cherry Hill, Mayor Cahn has ordered flags on all Township buildings to be flown at half-staff until he is laid to rest. A moment of silence is planned before Monday’s Council meeting.