Obituary of James Garfield DeMarco
James Garfield DeMarco passed away in his sleep at Mt. Holly Samaritan Hospice on the morning of Monday, May 13th. He is predeceased by his father, Anthony R. DeMarco and his mother Gladys Alloway DeMarco, his brother, Mark Anthony, and his sister, Anna Lynne, as well as multiple aunts and uncles most notably his beloved Aunt, Ruth Alloway Ramaciotti.
Garfield or “Gar’s” life was a movie in the making. The second of three children he was a star football player and scholar recruited by every top university in the country. He decided on Dartmouth College where he shined academically graduating cum laude with honors and was selected as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Upon graduation from Dartmouth, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study medieval history at the University of Naples, Italy. After his Fulbright year abroad, he was accepted into Harvard and Yale Law Schools deciding on Yale because of smaller classes. Classmates while at Yale included former California Governor Jerry Brown, former United States Senator Gary Hart and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. Garfield never practiced law. Instead, he took over the management of the family businesses which included A.R. DeMarco Enterprises and Chatsworth Cranberry Association, after the tragic death of his father in a car crash on New Year’s Eve 1964. His father, Anthony R., was a founding member of the Ocean Spray farmer’s cooperative. Garfield replaced his father on the Ocean Spray Board of Directors and served there until the family farm was sold to the New Jersey Conservation Foundation in 2004. The farm which was always a top five producer of cranberries for Ocean Spray was converted into a natural preserve.
The sport of politics was Garfield’s other passion. From 1974-1990, he served as Burlington County Republican Chairman being named “Chairman of the Chairman” by Governor Thomas H.. Kean in the 1980’s. He served as a New Jersey delegate to multiple national Republican Conventions. For many years, he also served as the Chairman of the Burlington County Bridge Commission. Garfield’s sphere of influence over the politics of Southern New Jersey was unparalleled during this time. His ability to raise money at elegant dinners at Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia enabled him to fund elections not only in Burlington County but in other key races in the State. Garfield retired from politics in 1990. Until his death he remained an active political observer. However, as he aged, his views and positions went from right of center to left of center changing his party affiliation to Independent in the early part of this decade. When he was asked why, he would simply say: “The Republican Party of today has no place for men like me.” It should be of no surprise that this change of heart occurred when Garfield publicly acknowledged that he was gay. It also was at this time that he became an ardent supporter of the campaign to allow for gay marriage. Few rejoiced over the decision as much as Garfield and his partner, William “Billy” Wilson who eventually became his husband in a ceremony officiated by Superior Court Judge and author of “Boardwalk Empire” Nelson Johnson accompanied by New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Ann Patterson in 2015.
At the height of his career, he also was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Lebanon State School, the New Jersey State Public Broadcasting Authority, the Philadelphia Union League as well as numerous other boards and commissions.
Beyond his very public life, Garfield loved to research his ancestry and was a vast collector of antiquities, art and manuscripts. He spent days upon days charting his lineage. He took great pride in the fact that his mother’s family, the Alloways, were Quakers who settled in New Jersey in the mid to late 1700’s. Garfield also loved the heart of the Pinelands, the Town of Chatsworth and its residents. In many ways, Chatsworth was as much his home as Hammonton. It is here that he and his siblings donated the land where Chatsworth’s Municipal Building stands. The Building which was constructed with materials indigenous to the geographic area was largely financed through multiple donations from Garfield and his family. Inside the building is a priceless gallery of photos, detailing the people and history of Chatsworth and the many towns and ghost towns that are part of the Pines. In 1995, the building was dedicated to Anthony R. and Gladys DeMarco in a public ceremony. Today a photo of his parents framed by cranberry vines stands on a steel post in front of the entrance.
Anyone who knew Garfield, found him to be brilliant, engaging, and welcoming. He was larger than life. He will be missed by so many including his husband, William “Billy” Wilson, his nephews Anthony J. DeMarco of Lancaster and Mark A. DeMarco of Hammonton, his nieces Barbara DeMarco and Kathleen DeMarco Van Cleve of Philadelphia, their spouses and his six great nephews. In addition, he is survived by his sister’s husband Dr. Robert Papinchak and their daughter, Martina of California. He counted Dee Ramaciotti Matthews, Lea Ramaciotti Zimmerman and Gary Alloway and their families as both family and dear friends. The DeMarco family and its many branches are too vast to mention specifically although he held them dear. Together they celebrate his life with his surrogate family and caregivers, Don and Karen Ogle and their children.
Family and friends are invited to attend his visitation Monday May 20th from 10:00am-12:00pm at St. Mary of Mt. Carmel Parish-St. Joseph Church, his mass of Christian Burial will follow at 12:00pm. A private entombment will follow at the family’s Mausoleum in Hammonton. Donations are respectfully requested to be made to the Marinella Funeral Home for the entombment and memorial of James Garfield DeMarco. Arrangements entrusted to the Marinella Funeral Home 102 N. Third Street, Hammonton, NJ 08037.
Marinella Funeral Home, Inc.
102 North Third Street
Hammonton, New Jersey 08037
Phone: (609) 561-1311