In Memoriam: Colette Lamothe-Galette, July 6, 1974-April 4, 2020

"I wish we could tell Colette how we loved her, how we thank her for the joy of working with her, how terribly we will miss her, and how such a loss leaves us with a fervent resolve to build on her legacy."
-Jan Nicholson, President, The Nicholson Foundation

Colette Lamothe-Galette, Senior Program Officer at The Nicholson Foundation, passed away on Saturday, April 4, 2020 at the age of 45, a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.  With an effervescent personality and unfailingly positive disposition, she brought joy to those around her.  She will be deeply missed by her family, her colleagues, her community, and all of those whose lives she touched.  Moreover, the entire state of New Jersey has tragically lost a public health leader – one driven by a commitment to health equity and expertise in strategies to reduce health disparities.

In just over a year at The Nicholson Foundation, Colette led a number of key initiatives at the intersection of health and early childhood.  Her work at the Foundation included building a multi-stakeholder coalition to prevent, protect against, and help children heal from Adverse Childhood Experiences, and supporting the Promise Neighborhoods in Camden and Newark.  More important than the projects she led at the Foundation was how she led the work—from a place of deep knowledge, with a commitment to using data and evidence as a guide, and with humility, by bringing everyone along with her ideas and honoring the perspectives of others. Prior to coming to the Foundation, she worked for 14 years at the New Jersey Department of Health, most recently serving as Director of Population Health.  Raised in Newark, Colette was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and received her Master of Public Health degree from Yale University. Colette is survived by her husband Saulus Galette and three children, Valerie (Mima), Nicolas (Nico), and Jessica (Jecca).  A memorial fund is being created for her children’s education.


Read Colette’s Obituary

Watch Colette’s Funeral Mass, April 15 2020

Read Governor Phil Murphy’s daily briefing mentioning Colette

Email for information on the memorial fund

Below, we have collected personal notes of tribute to Colette penned by some of her colleagues at The Nicholson Foundation. We welcome notes and tributes from all that knew her. To submit a tribute, please send us an email. We will compile all tributes for her family.

"Colette was an incredibly gifted and giving person. She was a true public health champion, working tirelessly to ensure that all residents in New Jersey had the best opportunity to live healthy and productive lives.  And she did this while being an incredible daughter, sister, wife, and mother.  While we may have lost a true hero, Colette's beautiful spirit lives on within so many of us to make sure we do our part to ensure a more just and kind world."

-Arturo Brito

"Colette was so loving and special that she became an immediate friend when she joined the Foundation.  Her warmth and kindness made it seem as though we’ve known each other our entire lives.  She was easy to talk with and I will miss our long chats in the hallway and our marathon phone calls that were equal parts work, friendship, and, most importantly, fun.  Colette made everything fun and upbeat with her infectious laugh and her positive outlook.

In our conversations, her dedication to her family was a clear theme and I enjoyed hearing all of her stories.  The love in her voice and the smile in her eyes when she talked about her children was undeniable. 

She was a humble and modest expert who worked tirelessly for the health and well-being of all. I learned so much from her.  I will carry her memory with me and aim to honor her in the work ahead.  She was a partner and a friend and I miss her dearly."

- Shannon Ayers

"'Happiness' and 'cubicles' are not words that often go together in the modern American workplace, but as someone who had the privilege to be adjacent to Colette for the too-brief time we worked next to each other, I’ve come to conflate the two.  Perennially upbeat, warm-hearted and chipper, Colette was a joy to be near. 

For those want an insider’s peek at her cubicle life – Colette’s workspace had two monitors, and she often had separate screens going on both while also typing away on a laptop, because she seemed to do twice the amount of work of normal people.  Deeply devoted to her family, portraits of the husband and children ringed her workspace, and stories of the latest adventures of the Lamothe-Galette clan rolled frequently from her lips.  Always busy yet never too busy for others, she could be heard bursting out in English or Creole assisting a family member on the phone, or helping out a work colleague across the hall.  I will deeply, deeply miss her laugh, her smile, and her warm presence.  Her catch-phrase, for a bizarre or unpleasant situation, was “that’s bananas,” (or just “bananas”) which I must have heard dozens of times in the year we worked together and never failed to bring a smile.  That she was taken from us all so young - that’s bananas."

- Kevin McManemin

"Colette’s enthusiasm and laughter always filled the room.  And although new to the Foundation, she fit right in and jumped immediately into the work- and always with a smile. She was so admired for her commitment and dedication to supporting the health and well-being of communities in NJ, but I think I will remember her most for the love and devotion she had for her family and children.  She will be missed."

- Barbara Kang

"Colette worked tirelessly alongside us, mission-driven and passionate, to move the needle ever forward for vulnerable populations in New Jersey. She brought wit and ingenuity to every conversation, inspiring me and so many others with her commitment to her work. Not only that, but it was clear that she was committed to her family, including her daughter Jessica whom I had the pleasure of meeting. Colette and I spoke at length about her daughter's interests, which I could tell were just as much Colette's interests in turn. She was kind, and smart, and hilarious, and heroic - but most of all, she was a role model. Colette will be remembered for her work's impact, which we will carry on for her, and for her impact as a mother, wife, and friend, which her children and family will carry on just as well."

- Madison McHugh

"The first time I met Colette was at the welcoming lunch for her and Kim. I had the distinct pleasure of sitting next to her and I remember thinking, this person is the epitome of the word “joyful.”  She was such a big-hearted person, fully engaged in life and committed to making a difference for others. Her joyful attitude is a gift she gave to us and something we can emulate to honor her."

- Anne Brown Rodgers

"Colette was always a ray of sunshine when I walked into the office.  There was always a happy greeting, a big smile, a positive attitude.  She was full of energy and good will, ready to problem solve if needed, respectful of all.  She was a true colleague from the first days she joined us and lit up the office with her warmth.  What a loss."

- Kay Hendon

"Colette had a smile that reflected her inner goodness and warmth, and a calm and positive way with others.  In her very unique way, she shared that goodness with everyone whose life she touched. Colette brought something special to Nicholson, something impossible to replace. Along with deep sadness, I will remember Colette with a smile-an echo of her smile."

- Maureen Deevey

"From the moment Colette joined the team, she brought a new level of positivity and compassion to the Foundation’s work. She was a shining example of the quote, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” Her outfits brought a feeling of regality, while her smile brought everyone in with its overwhelming warmth. Colette will be remembered across New Jersey for her dedication to the health and well-being of vulnerable populations, and among her colleagues and friends as a beautiful person inside and out. She will be missed."

- Wesley Wei

"What goes without saying is that Colette was profoundly committed to serving New Jersey’s most vulnerable. What was most exceptional about Colette was the love and joy she spread with each and every encounter.  Her biggest challenge may have been her sense of direction (smile), but she always knew the way through the bureaucratic tangles-- restoring me to the path and purpose. Colette was more patient than most people, and yet quicker to get the job done.  She often worked quietly behind the scenes removing obstacles, and yet she lit up the room with her heartfelt smile and ready humor.  I’ll never forget the many beautiful shades of purple she loved to wear and the deep pride she had in her loving family.  She was a partner and a friend and I will miss her dearly."

- Raquel Mazon Jeffers

"What a thrill it was to reunite again with Colette at the Nicholson Foundation over the past year. My memories of her from Mathematica are consistent with who she was 15+ years later--a person who brought wisdom and deep thinking to the thorniest problems, cared about others, and was an amazing team member and friend. Chatting with her over lunch about kids and all of the fun she had planned with her big family was a ball. Colette shared her enthusiasm, love, and attention generously and we all benefited from being in her circle. She was a blessing to everyone she touched. By doubling down on the work Colette cared so much about in prevention of Adverse Childhood Experiences, using data for continuous improvement, and ensuring that community health workers have the training and support they need, we will build on her enduring legacy."

- Kim Boller

"Although I only knew Colette a little over a year, her kindness and her smile will forever be embedded in my mind. I will miss seeing her in the office and will most miss our discussions and comparing our purple belongings. Colette your life was cut short, however your accomplishments were many not just your professional life but especially your family life. You were worshipped and loved by all who knew you. Rest in Peace."

-Michelle Fouks

"We have lost our precious colleague Colette.  The disbelief is engulfing—that this would happen to such a good person.  She was a sweetheart.  Unfailingly positive. 

I don’t think we are going to get over this.  As a group, we have shared a purpose, we have shared the strain of the many steps required to work toward it, and the deep satisfaction of actually changing things for the better.  Collette, who strived with us, carrying a beacon of confidence, won’t be there for the finish.  I weep. 

I wish we could tell Colette how we loved her, how we thank her for the joy of working with her, how terribly we will miss her, and how such a loss leaves us with a fervent resolve to build on her legacy."

- Jan Nicholson