Therese Chorun, 55, environmental and social-justice advocate

Therese Chorun.

BY RICK HILL | Therese Marie Chorun, a fixture in Downtown New York City activist circles, died on Sept. 12. She was 55.

After an April 2015 life-saving hospitalization following diagnosis and initial treatment for cervical cancer, she declined mainstream medical care for several months while pursuing alternative remedies.

She reconnected with the medical system in her last year and a half, when she had multiple hospitalizations, spent six months at a rehab / nursing facility in Harlem before transferring to Calvary Hospital in the Bronx, a wonderful place for adult cancer patients.

She was born May 20, 1962, in Brooklyn, the first of four children of Katherine and Joseph Chorun. Her siblings are a sister, Leslie, and brothers Philip and Alan. Leslie is an MD, Philip a programmer and Alan heads Young Vision Africa, a nonprofit in Africa. She loved her three nieces, Alexandra, Elena and Julia.

Therese Chorun during a trip to Canada with her sister. This photo was taken in Alberta’s Banff National Park, behind Lake Louise, at the end of the Plain of the Six Glaciers Trail, with Mt. Victoria in the background.

Growing up mostly in Byram Township, in northwestern New Jersey, she attended Lenape Valley Regional High School in Stanhope, N.J., before getting her B.A. at Hofstra in Hempstead, Long Island.

For her whole life, she lived mostly in Stanhope and Jersey City and around New York City.

Her mother, Katherine, died on Oct. 8, not quite a month after Therese’s death.

Therese’s exotic beauty from her Korean father and half-Italian / half-English-German mother made her the ideal model for painters like her friend James Reid and photographers. But she declined nude modeling. She was known for her wild hair, sparkling eyes, bright smile and slim proportions.

She loved nature and had seen many national parks in the U.S. and Canada because her father had a great appreciation for them also and planned several family trips there. She and her sister Leslie took a group tour of Europe in 1985 for a month, and Therese later took a trip to Greece with one of Leslie’s friends.

Therese took other trips to South America and Mexico.

She played the piano and loved reading and writing.

Raised Catholic, including Confirmation, she was later agnostic, then atheist, then agnostic again. On admission to Calvary Hospital, when asked her religion, she answered, “lapsed Catholic,” but received the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick a week prior to her death when critically ill.

A funeral Mass for her mother was held  at St. Michael Catholic Church in Netcong, N.J., on Oct. 17, and Therese was included in the intercessory prayers. Then another Mass was offered for Therese and her mother Nov. 15 at St. Michael the Archangel Church, at 424 W. 34th St.

Therese was known as intelligent, honest, thrifty and someone who hated seeing anything wasted. She fought for the preservation of the redwood forests and for human rights in Burma and worldwide.

She lived with her boyfriend Vinny for seven years. The past nine years were spent with partner and best friend Carl Watson, mostly on the Lower East Side, and he faithfully stayed by her side throughout her illness.

Therese Chorun in her 30s.

For 10 years she was a paid staff member at WBAI, doing data entry, until she was abruptly terminated in a budget move. She was an assistant to poet Steve Cannon of “A Gathering of Tribes” in the East Village.

At a packed October memorial potluck at Integral Yoga, at 227 W. 13th St. — where Therese volunteered to fold blankets and arrange pillows — led by Laura of Gentle Yoga and Therese’s companion, writer Carl, she was remembered by family and friends for her extreme empathy toward individuals and social justice / environmental causes.

Mitch Cohen sang the Kaddish. Many told amusing stories of her scavenging useful items, including food, and distributing it to appropriate people and organizations, including the Catholic Worker on E. Third St. Over the years, she was also associated also with activities at the E. Sixth St. Community Center, Judson Memorial Church and the former music club Wetlands. It was recalled how her arrest at a Home Depot protest landed her in jail for a traumatic entire weekend while others were quickly released.

She also assisted senior citizens at Center on the Square / Greenwich House, often as a volunteer.

Attendees were invited to peruse and take any of her lovely garments on tabletops in back at the memorial, and her sister Leslie was striking in Therese’s paisley wrap. Paisley was Therese’s favorite design.

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