Remembering Charlotte Cessato, teacher of history
On May 25 I received the sad news that Charlotte Cessato had passed away suddenly.
Like many readers of this column will be, I was immediately transported back to the days when Hammonton High School was on Liberty Street and Cessato was our social studies teacher back in the 1980s. She was also the cheerleading coach at that time.
We learned a lot in her class and also had a lot of fun. In addition to learning lessons about American history, we had time to joke around and play pranks (you could do that then). She even played one of her favorite movies about history—the musical 1776—for us on a big tube television that was rolled into the classroom on a rack. (It was the 1980s, remember?)
Certain teachers make a lasting impact on you, and Charlotte certainly made one on me and most of her students. She cared deeply about them as well as the cheerleaders and Hammonton High School. Later in life, she brought that same zeal to local institutions like Kessler Memorial Hospital and the Catholic church.
She was dedicated to her family—her late husband Bill, her daughter Melissa and Melissa’s husband Stefano, her son Billy and her granddaughter Victoria. Her extended family, most of whom live in Hammonton—including her niece, Gazette Lead Graphic Designer MarySusan Hoffman, were also a large part of her life.
Growing up, I can remember being at her house many times—good memories of teenage years, including one day when Melissa, who was my classmate of mine at the Hammonton School District and some other friends all went sledding off of Boyer Avenue then came back and had a big lunch together in her dining room.
Charlotte stayed in touch with me in the more than 30 years since then, usually with occasional phone calls, emails or when we’d run into each other in town.
Last July we traded emails about the dedication of the Coach Joe Cacia Rock at Robert Capoferri Field at Hammonton High School. She had so many good memories about that time in her life. She was up-to-date on everything else that was happening in town in the present day as well. She took an interest in the place and its people.
I tend to keep emails, and as I wrote this column, I pulled up some of hers from during the years. The one that stood out to me was sent in 2009, after I wrote about the hospital permanently closing and my own battle with cancer.
As typified Charlotte, the email was direct, fearless and heartfelt. She complimented the newspaper’s coverage of the hospital situation and gave her thoughts on the matter. Then she turned her attention to my cancer, offering helpful suggestions (which I used) from her and her husband Bill’s own experience with the disease.
She ended the email from 2009 with these words:
“Once again, I pray that you will do well in your treatment. I have been disease free now for 17 years. (hard to believe). Remember, if I can help in any way, I will be more than happy,” she wrote.
Charlotte Cessato taught me, and many others, history. We had a lot of history together.
She will be missed by me, Gina and all of us here at The Gazette.
Gabriel J. Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.