Earth Day event celebrates late environmental champion


 Urban planner Mark Evans talks with Jane Tousman at a 2008 workshop on the train station redevelopment. Urban planner Mark Evans talks with Jane Tousman at a 2008 workshop on the train station redevelopment. EDISON — The annual Earth Day celebration at the Triple C Ranch and Nature Center on Tyler Road was extra special this year.

The 12th annual event honored Jane Tousman, a longtime advocate for the 1,240-acre Dismal Swamp Conservation Area.

The Earth Day celebration included Dismal Swamp eco-tours, refreshments, a petting zoo, arts and crafts, live music, raffle prizes, a wildlife presentation, a scavenger hunt and more.

The association honored Tousman with a ceremonial tree planting, and Dana Patterson, project manager for the Edison Wetlands Association (EWA), received the Jane Tousman Award for Environmental Excellence. She has been with the EWA for fiveand a-half years.

Tousman died on March 22 at Haven Hospice at JFK Medical Center in Edison after suffering a debilitating stroke in February. She was 77.

 Jane Tousman  PHOTO COURTESY OF THESIERRA CLUB Jane Tousman PHOTO COURTESY OF THESIERRA CLUB She and four housewives formed Save Our Swamp in 1984, when the proposed construction of 2,000 residential units threatened one of the county’s largest parcels of open space in the township. The eight-year fight resulted in construction of far fewer units, which saved hundreds of acres of wetlands and paved the way for the Dismal Swamp Conservation Area.

Tousman was remembered as a friend, colleague, environmental advocate and politician. But perhaps she was best known for her “loud” voice, which made people listen. Her sons, Stuart and David, reminisced about that voice during her funeral service, which was held March 24 at Temple Emanu-El in Edison.

Her husband, Daniel Tousman, said many might not know that his wife had a great singing voice.

Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg concurred. He said he had Tousman sing the first song at synagogue.

“Jane is one that cannot be replaced,” he said.

Tousman said that along their journey, his wife evolved as a person and developed many new causes. One of them was to “save the world.”

She was a regular at Edison Township Council meetings, both as a resident and while serving a term as councilwoman. She was also a member of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

Council President Robert Karabinchak said Tousman made an impression on him during their first encounter 30 years ago. He learned that Tousman knew everything about Edison and was very knowledgeable about the politics in town.

Tousman had files of records at her home that she would lend out to those who needed information.

“Jane always wanted to help,” Karabinchak said, adding that she fought vehemently when it came to open space, the environment and quality of life. “She taught me so many things that I will never forget, and we will make sure that she will never be forgotten.”

Former Edison Mayor Antonia Ricigliano, who knew Tousman for over 40 years, said she may have been small in stature, but when she spoke, everyone listened.

“I want to put this on the record,” she said, bringing laughter to those at the funeral service. At council meetings, Tousman often spoke during the public comment section so that her remarks would be put into the record.

Mayor Thomas Lankey said only positive testaments can be given of Tousman’s work on the council and her work on the environment.

“She wanted to do what was best, and wanted to make Edison a greener and better place to live,” he said.

Tousman got her start in politics volunteering with the League of Women Voters shortly after moving to South Plainfield from Hong Kong with her husband and three children in the 1970s. One of the rooms in her home is decorated to reflect their time in Hong Kong.

A short time later, the family moved to North Edison.

Tousman served on the Edison Township Council in the early 1990s as a Republican. She lost an Assembly bid to Democratic incumbent Barbara Buono and Democratic challenger Peter Barnes Jr. in 1995.

Predeceased by her parents, Henry and Grace (Burlowitz) Kupferberg, she is survived by her husband of 55 years; her daughters, Amy Tousman and Lori Hull, of Hawaii; her sons, David of Pennsylvania, and Stuart of Virginia; her brother, Richard Kupferberg; and her sister, Maxine Kupferberg.