Described as “quiet and reserved,” Helene E. DeGise, the wife of County Executive Tom DeGise, died on Friday, Aug. 25 at age 55, after a sudden heart attack.
Mrs. DeGise was rushed to Christ Hospital late on Friday where she underwent emergency surgery, said Jim Kennelly, spokesperson for the county executive.
“She was still unconscious and slipped away later,” he said.
A homemaker who helped raise their two daughters, Amy and Linda, Mrs. DeGise was not involved in the political scene, always supportive of her husband’s efforts as a public servant, but she played no significant role in his political life, Kennelly said.
“She made sacrifices that allowed Tom to perform his duties,” he said. “She was humane, decent, and sweet. She was also down to earth. She treated everyone with respect.”
Kennelly said Mrs. DeGise would treat a person from the neighborhood the same as she would any of the dignitaries she met at events with her husband.
“This is a terrible shock to her family,” Kennelly said.
Born in Harrison, Mrs. DeGise settled in Jersey City Heights with her husband, where they lived for over 30 years.
“She made a life and raised her family in the Heights,” Kennelly said. “They attended St. Paul of the Cross.”
Mrs. DeGise was also a member of the York Street Project Women’s Shelter.
Recently, Mrs. DeGise had gone back to college to get her degree and attended New Jersey City University.
“She was very proud of this,” Kennelly said. “While she hadn’t selected a major, she always wanted to go back to get her degree.”
Hoboken Mayor Dave Roberts said he is very saddened by the sudden loss.
“She reflected the best in Hudson County,” he said. “She and her husband are decent and homespun individuals who grew up here. My heart goes out to the family.”
Bill Gaughan, who serves as chief of staff to the county executive, was also emotionally distraught, saying that he could not comment.
Kennelly said the family and those close to the DeGises are seeking to keep this a private matter.
Mrs. DeGise is survived by her husband and two daughters, as well as a sister, Paula, and three brothers, Stanley, Richard, and Alex Savage. A funeral mass was scheduled for Aug. 28 at St. Paul of the Cross Church on Hancock Avenue in Jersey City.