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María DeCastro Blake 
Lifetime Achievement Award
2008 Honoree

Mary Bustillo Donohue
Educator and Community Leader

Mary Bustillo Donohue was born at home in Havana, Cuba on February 14, 1925. Cuba’s political turmoil during the 1930s prompted Mary’s parents, Enriqueta Suárez Riagu and Manuel Bustillo Ventura to move to the United States. They left Havana for New York City on September 8, 1933, when Mary was eight years old.

During her sophomore year at Arbutus Cathedral High in Manhattan, Mary obtained her first summer job at The New York Sun. She moved to New Jersey during her college years. She obtained a B.A. and M.A. in Spanish literature, with honors, at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mary opted to remain in New Jersey after graduation.

She found a teaching position at the Paramus Catholic Regional High School and for the following 31 years taught and served as Chair of the Modern Languages Department of her school and for seven years also taught part-time at Seton Hall University.

She became active in the Democratic Party and in 1955 was elected to the Municipal Committee of her home town, River Edge. She later became the first elected woman to the River Edge Council, where she served two terms, and in 1985 became the first Hispanic elected to serve the Bergen County Board of Freeholders. Mary’s demand for excellence in education, led to the creation of the Bergen County Academies. Nominated to the Democratic National Committee by Governor Jim Florio in 1991, she helped draft the New Jersey State Democratic Platform, and the National Democratic Platform for President Clinton’s first term in office. Mary has also served as chairperson of the National Democratic Hispanic Caucus.

Over the years, Mary has been a member of numerous statewide commissions, including New Jersey’s Commission on the Status of Women, and the New Jersey Historic Tourism Task Force Commission. She has contributed to the Eagleton Institute for the Advancement of Women in Politics, by encouraging women to run for public office. She is one of the founding members of LADA, Latin American Democratic Association, based in Bergen County. At present, Mary works as Congressman Steve Rothman’s Immigration and Constituent Service Aide.

Mary credits her many accomplishments to her profound devotion to the Catholic Church, her family and her loving husband, Gerald Dohonue. Mary became a widow after 57 years of marriage. She is the proud mother of eight adult children and 18 grandchildren.


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