Thursday, August 10, 2006

Blanco - Courier - Memorial Service

Published in the Courier News, Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Plainfield honors Blanco, his legacy

Staff Writer

PLAINFIELD -- Ray Blanco was more than just president of the City Council -- he was a person worth knowing.

That was the theme of a memorial service held Tuesday at Queen City Academy Charter School, where throngs of people gathered to pay their respects to Blanco -- a man whose own life challenges seemed to spur a legacy of creating opportunities for others.

"Ray was never about Ray," Union County Freeholder Angel Estrada said. "He was always advocating for other people."

On July 28, Blanco died of an apparent heart attack at 50.

Friends, relatives and colleagues choked back tears Tuesday as they recalled the times they had shared with Blanco and the influence he had on their own lives.

"He was a man who wanted to know everything," said Charlotte DeFilippo, chairwoman of the Union County Democratic Committee. "And if you knew Ray, he was always late, but absolutely worth waiting for."

Born in Cuba, Blanco came to the United States in 1962 at 6. Friends and family said he became interested in politics early on, but also had a passion for film, which would eventually lead to an extensive career producing and directing documentaries. Blanco also created his own television production company, EDGE Entertainment, and won three Emmy awards.

But it wasn't Blanco's position -- as the highly respected public affairs director for the Fox 5 television network -- that people said impressed them most about the 23-year city resident.

Rather, it was Blanco's passion for fighting the good fight and standing up for what he believed in, regardless of his opinion's popularity, that many of the speakers at the memorial service said was most impressive about him.

"I admired how much he was ahead of his time," said fellow City Council member Rayland Van Blake, speaking through tears. "The city owes him a debt of gratitude that it will never be able to repay."

After years of community involvement, including a stint as the Queen City Academy Charter School's board president, Blanco became Plainfield's first Hispanic elected official in 2005, when he was sworn onto City Council by longtime friend Zulima Farber, now state Attorney General.

Earlier this year, Blanco was elected City Council president, a capacity in which colleagues said he worked tirelessly trying to resolve the city's problems and issues.

Politics and Blanco were a match, Farber said.

"I remember when he called to tell me he was running for office -- and I knew he had such a passion for justice," Farber said to the service's audience Tuesday. "I hope you take with you his spirit of inclusiveness for all the rest of your lives."

Nov. 2, 2004
Ray Blanco wins the November general election for Plainfield City Council's only at-large seat, becoming the first Hispanic elected official in the city's history.

March 2005
Blanco sponsors Plainfield's Civic Responsibility Act, a law designed to further inform the city's citizenry of board, committee and commission vacancies so that more community members are aware of opportunities for government participation. The ordinance is approved by City Council on April 4, 2005.

April 2005
Blanco introduces an ordinance establishing the Plainfield Advisory Commission on Hispanic Affairs -- a seven-member body with the mission of advising the City Council and mayor on the needs of Plainfield's Hispanic population. The ordinance is adopted by City Council on April 18, 2005.

July 2005
Blanco supports an ordinance amending and supplementing the city's Juvenile Curfew Act, prohibiting individuals younger than 18 from being on the city's streets late at night. The ordinance is approved by City Council on July 5, 2005.

Dec. 31, 2005
Blanco is elected City Council president as he enters his second year on the council.

July 28, 2006
Blanco dies of an apparent heart attack at his Plainfield home. He was 50.
Christa Segalini can be reached at (908) 707-3142 or

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Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.