Maria Almeida

Grand Marshal - 2023

Maria do Rosario Cirne Henriques da Fonseca Almeida was born on May 16th, 1968 in Bunheiro, Murtosa to Maria de Apresentação Bastos Cirne and the late Manuel Jose Oliveira Henriques da Fonseca. She is the sister of Pedro DaFonseca and wife Idalina, and the late Manuel Jose Fonseca. Maria immigrated to the United States at 18 months of age, following her father who briefly lived in Venezuela on his search for a life of more opportunity for his family. Her family settled in Elizabeth, NJ where she has lived ever since arriving to this country. 

As a child, Maria attended Portuguese school at Escola Amadeu Correia at the Portuguese Instructive Social Club (PISC) in Elizabeth, NJ, where her dad was a member for many years. She attended catechism at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Elizabeth, NJ. Her parents always kept her involved in the Portuguese community so that she would continue to learn about the traditions and culture of her home country. Growing up in this way made her recognize the importance of giving back to the community to ensure the Portuguese culture stays alive. 

Maria graduated Elizabeth High School’s first class of Gifted and Talented students held at John E. Dwyer Academy in 1984. She has worked for the Elizabeth Board of Education for 19 years. Currently, she is the administrative secretary at Juan Pablo Duarte – Jose Julian Marti School Number 28. She enjoys working with and advocating for the children and parents of the community.

Anyone who knows Maria knows that she takes great pride in the Portuguese-American community of Elizabeth, NJ. She is a woman of God, faith, family, community and friends. Over her lifetime, she has dedicated countless hours to the community and has become a role model and leader to many. Maria is an active parishioner at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Elizabeth, NJ. She severed 15 years as a Catechism teacher, from 1999 through 2014. Maria taught 3rd and 5thgrades as well as adult education. She served as a Cub Scout leader for Troop 101 from 2004 to 2014. She enjoyed volunteering her time as a den leader and helping make a positive, lifelong impact on the children of our community. Maria was a member of the Parish Council for 9 years.

Maria was involved in Grupo de Jovens of Our Lady of Fatima Church which later became Elizabeth Youth Soccer (EYS), from 2000 to 2014. She served as the secretary for 4 years and the President for 10 years. Some may remember her taking on the roles of assistant coach and referee at 9 months pregnant. The soccer club grew significantly in size while she was President. Maria played a vital role in the task of affiliating the formerly known Grupo de Jovens (now EYS) with PISC during her time as President.

Even after her own children completed CCD, soccer, and achieved the highest ranking in Boy Scouts - Eagle Scout, she continued to dedicate her time to the Portuguese-American youth of Elizabeth. Maria does her best to guide and leave an impact on all of the youth she encounters and ensure they “remember who they are and where they come from.” She takes great pride in crossing paths with former soccer players, CCD students, and Scouts who she impacted and loves watching them succeed and raise families of their own. 

Maria has been a vital member of the Elizabeth Portugal Day Committee (PDC) since 1999 and has held many roles within the committee, including treasurer and President (2019-2021). While president of PDC, she also served as an area campaign captain (2019-2020) to help promote the “Make Portuguese Count” campaign which was organized by the Portuguese American Leadership Council of the United States (PALCUS) to continue raising awareness about the important initiative of making the Portuguese community have a strong national voice.

Apart from being an exceptional and vital member of the Portuguese-American community of Elizabeth, Maria is a loving wife to her husband of 34 years, Jose Manuel Pereira de Almeida. She is an even more loving mother to her three amazing sons: Manuel and his wife Lorina Cacoilo Almeida, Nicholas, and Matthew who she is both extremely proud of and loves deeply. Maria is an adoring grandmother to two beautiful little girls, Celina and Camila, who fill her heart with love. She is a loving sister-in-law, and an aunt and great-aunt to many nieces and nephews.