Thursday, November 28, 2013


I was aware that he was not well but I am still stunned by the passing of a founding member of ICE: Gene Prisco.  Tributes are starting to pour in.  Please read the Staten Island Advance obituary or the brief introduction to the Advance piece over at Ed Notes from Norm Scott. We are also reprinting in its entirety the message from the Democratic Party of Staten Island (see below).

Gene was truly a wonderful human being. My wife Camille and I both feel honored that we were able to know him and his wife Lorreta.  What a truly inspiring couple who are kind of role models to us on how to be a politically active family.

When people like me would be rambling on at ICE meetings about some great injustice by Randi Weingarten or Bloomberg or anyone else, Gene would respond by acknowledging in no uncertain terms that the job of a union was primarily to protect its members and that the UFT should be criticized if they don't live up to their main mission. What was unique about Gene is he could make these points in a way that would make us roll over laughing. 

He had an amazing sense of humor and no matter how bad the conditions in the schools have worsened for teachers, his outlook at ICE meetings remained optimistic that we could make our issues (for example lower class sizes) part of the union's agenda. 

Gene and Loretta were in attendance regularly to support Jeff Kaufman, Barbara Kaplan Halper and me when we were on the UFT Executive Board. He knew that the UFT had the potential to be a positive force to make the education system a better place for teachers, parents and students.  He felt the same way about the promise of the Democratic Party. That is why he ran for Congress in 1998.

My wife is reminding me of Gene's commitment to assisting African refugees.  Some of these refugees were kids who were involved in war at very young ages. Gene took enormous pride in his work with the African Refuge organization.  Nothing made him happier than helping people get a better life.

Gene Prisco's activism proves that you can make a difference in the world by living up to your ideals. Our condolences go to Loretta and the entire family.

I regret to inform you of the passing of Eugene Prisco, Democratic Congressional candidate in 1998 and a longtime party activist and community leader. Gene was one of the most passionate and articulate voices on behalf of the Democratic Party that I have ever known. He was a man of principle, a man of vision and a man with a deep and abiding love for his family, Staten Island and the Democratic Party. With Gene's passing, we have lost a champion for the values of the Democratic Party and it is a loss we all feel deeply. For those who have had the privilege of knowing Gene, I hope you'll carry his memory with you and I ask that you pray for his family and friends during this difficult time.

Services are still in the process of being arranged. When the details are finalized we will announce them.

Yours Truly,
John P. Gulino


Jeff Kaufman said...

Thanks, James and to all of you who have known Gene and have been touched by his compassion, strength and lust for life. Gene's gift of making everyone feel special and important extended to those that totally disagreed with his strong views. While it is a huge loss he has left a legacy which will live on through all of us.

John Lawhead said...

We loved you, Gene Prisco. You were a wise and charming fellow. You always had an open heart and timely words to make us feel we're part of something larger.

MIke MORE said...

May God Bless Loretta and the family, my deepest sympathies

Michael Fiorillo said...

How to even begin to describe the levels of inspiration that Gene and Loretta provided?

Committed educators, representative of the best of NYC and it's radical traditions, wonderful friends offering help and comfort to those around them, people full of humor and the life force...

Farewell, brother: you lit the path before us and made it a little easier to go forward.

Gloria said...

Although I didn't know Gene that well,I learned quickly at ICE meetings that when Gene was about to speak, it was in all of our best interests to listen very carefully! His words, his analysis, his advise always gave the energy and wisdom needed to move our goals towards building an activist, strong and member centric union forward!
Gene, Presente !