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In this quarter’s “Hope Matters” newsletter, we featured—for many good reasons—our founder, Father Charles Hudson. Father Hudson passed away suddenly from a heart attack on January 21, 1997 but his legacy lives on every day in our two residences and in the care we provide in the wider community.

Father Hudson was honored in various ways just before and after he passed away at age 61. 

  • School No. 25 in Elizabeth was renamed Charles J. Hudson School No. 25 a month after his passing. 
  • He had been asked to be the Grand Marshal of Union County’s first Saint Patrick’s Day parade, an honor which undoubtedly delighted him but which he sadly would not be able to fulfill. 
  • On the day before he died, Drew University in Madison named him the recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian of the Year award. 
  • He was also inducted into the Elizabeth Hall of Fame in 2005. 

Some background on Father and the Center:
Following his college days at Seton Hall University (where he played basketball, as he did at St. Aloysius High School in Jersey City), Father Hudson entered seminary and was ordained as a priest in May 1962. Six years later, he met Peggy Coloney, RN, an oncology nurse at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in Elizabeth (Peggy’s House in Scotch Plains is named after her). Together, they recognized that the emotional and spiritual needs of the sick and dying were not being addressed, and created a partnership that forever transformed care for these patients in our area. 

In 1983, after years of working together to administer to the needs of the terminally ill, they founded The Center for Hope, formalizing the model of high-quality hospice and palliative care we have provided to thousands of patients over the past 35 years. After Father’s untimely death, Peggy continued leading the organization until she passed away in 2003.

In the Center’s early days, we relied on donated space and medical supplies, volunteer nurses and volunteer assistants. Two of those original volunteers—Marilyn Haggerty and Joan Noonan—still support the Center for Hope today. You can read about them on page 2 of “Hope Matters.”

Father Hudson said Mass every Sunday at St. Helen’s Church in Westfield, inspiring so many people through the years. Our popular Father Charles Hudson Super Bowl Raffle, started in late 1996, was initiated by a parishioner at St. Helen’s who was working for the NFL at the time; she was moved by Father’s words and his devotion to the Center and offered to arrange a pair of Super Bowl tickets for a fundraiser (Father Hudson was able to pull the first winning raffle ticket shortly before he died). St. Helen’s Church held an event in early February of this year, dedicated to remembering and celebrating Father’s life and his messages of love, peace and hope. 

Today, Center for Hope Hospice operates two in-patient residences with a full nursing staff, chaplains, social workers, administrators and employees covering all aspects of the operation. We still rely on our faithful, hard-working volunteers who assist at Father Hudson House and Peggy’s House, and our Auxiliary members who run the Hope Chest thrift store in Westfield and who coordinate our major fundraising events in the fall and spring. 

Looking back over the past 35 years, we can only wonder if Father Hudson and Peggy Coloney could have envisioned how their original calling would evolve and grow. Our staff continually goes above and beyond the expectations of our patients and their families…and we’re sure our founders would be proud.