Coping with Grief
We would like to offer our sincere support to anyone coping with grief. Enter your email below for our complimentary daily grief messages. Messages run for up to one year and you can stop at any time. Your email will not be used for any other purpose.
Ann Marie Osaki
Like many great stories, we should begin with a mystery—a rare moment of star-struck controversy that lay unknown to many for decades. Did Ann Marie Osaki nee Rafferty break into James Dean’s apartment one fateful day while playing hooky from school?
To answer this question, we should start in 1938, when Ann Marie Osaki was born and raised in “Down Neck” Newark, the prodigious eldest daughter of three to Bernard and Mary Rafferty. The embodiment of the American Dream, Ann Marie grew up living upstairs of a gas station and spending much of her time playing around cars and trucks with her brother, Barney Rafferty (predeceased), and long-time friend Mickey Ryder (predeceased) in the lot before moving to Lyndhurst. She graduated high school at the tender age of 16 while a track team member. Shortly thereafter, she attended Montclair State University, earning an education degree and working as a switchboard operator to pay for her dorm room on campus. At Montclair State, she fell in love with theater and was part of numerous productions.
A free and adventurous spirit, Ann Marie loved to travel. One of her fondest memories was traveling cross country with her Dad and Barney, even flying off the road and landing in a ditch in Montana; this was the first of many adventures. She eventually made it to all 50 states throughout her lifetime. Later, Ann Marie also explored the world. She traveled all over East and West Europe and Japan, eventually meeting Kozo Osaki in Spain. When they married, Ann Marie settled down and bought a house in Iselin, New Jersey. This time marked the great Osaki dynasty of books and cats–Kuro, Chibi, Ninja, Shiro, Mike, Tetchan, Cutie Pie, Patches, Moko, Maverick, Alice, Ms. Runt, Winston, Mini, Forest, Sharpie, Sarge, CC, Mama, Smudge, Lefty and Looney Tunes. Ann Marie’s relationship with each cat could be a story unto itself, as could the two rooms filled with books from floor to ceiling.
Professionally, Ann Marie taught in Nutley township, but this “day job” was to finance her true love, being a ski bum in Vermont on the weekends. Indeed, she traversed the 400+ miles roundtrip for multiple seasons, meeting with Mickey and riding the crisp slopes in Brattleboro. For another 33 years thereafter, Ann Marie navigated a 44-mile round trip commute up and down the New Jersey Turnpike, all to educate seventh-grade students in Social Studies at Pierrepont School in Rutherford, New Jersey. Tough but fair, Ann Marie had a fiery passion for ensuring students left the classroom with a global view, critical thinking skills, and an awareness of of the Holocaust, a unit she developed prior to its addition to the state curriculum. Ann Marie’s love for teaching was undeniable. More importantly, the community and friends she developed with fellow peers at Pierrepont lasted a lifetime, like Fran Knowlden, Joan Murphy, and Kathleen Szesciuk.
In October 1984, Ann Marie and Kozo adopted their son, Terumi. She imparted to him the importance of integrity, empathy, and social justice. Ann Marie was there for every little league baseball game, orchestra event, judo practice, and even Terumi’s doctoral defense. Beyond her unquestioned passion for teaching and travel, Ann Marie loved her family. When her brother Barney met Catherine Rafferty, Ann Marie’s sister-in-law, she felt privileged to share in the experiences of her nieces and nephews, Maureen, Barney, and Brian, growing up in Indian River and Edison. When Maureen, Barney, and Brian had their children, Elizabeth Marie Gonzalez, Kevin Charles Rafferty, Michael Rafferty, and Erin Rafferty, she was so proud to be a great-aunt. Every Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, birthday, graduation, lunches with her cousin, Katty Conroy, at the Metuchen Inn, recitals and confirmations were always a highlight—moments captured in time that Ann Marie cherished. Her dining room is still filled with pictures of all the family.
Ann Marie Osaki passed away peacefully on Thursday, November 16, 2023, at the Hartwyck Rehab Center, and as such, we should conclude with the mystery. Yes, this Social Studies teacher, volunteer for animal care, devoted mother–an upstanding citizen did indeed knock on James Dean’s apartment door. When she realized he wasn’t home, she turned the unlocked door knob moments later. She peered inside to find a montage of small paintings created by the Rebel Without A Cause. We hope this obituary has provided a glimpse into the rich and joyful life of Ann Marie Osaki, a devoted wife, mother, aunt, and great-aunt who loved watching all of the kids grow up.
In lieu of flowers, Ann Marie requested donations to be made to Angel Paws, an organization she volunteered with for over a decade. Their mission is “To promote the humane treatment and care of animals as pets, provide a safe haven for those in need and educate and assist their human friends. We believe every animal has the right to be wanted before it is born and the right to a loving home.”
Visitation Tuesday November 21, 2023 from 2:00pm to 4:00pm and 7:00pm to 9:00pm at the Funeral Home.