In Memoriam: Steven Defelice 1954-2020

By: Follow South Jersey Staff

BRIDGETON, N.J. — Follow South Jersey is devastated to share the news of the passing of Steven Defelice.

Steven celebrated his 66th birthday two days before passing away on December 3. He worked for Hopeloft as a community liaison beginning in early 2019, and he was also sworn in as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for CASA of Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties in February of this year.

After being sworn in as a CASA, Steven took so much pride in supporting foster care youth in the region. He showed an immense amount of passion, selflessness, and genuine care for those he served.

“Steven was pure joy and light to everyone he met. He gave his entire being to helping others in need and found a home within Hopeloft and CASA of CGS to do just that,” Cara Zoppina, the Salem Advocate Coordinator for CASA of CGS, said. “To say that he was proud to be a CASA is an understatement. He served two youth and helped changed their lives for the better by being a constant source of positive support for them. I am grateful to have known Steve. I will miss his laughter and our chats but he will forever be a CASA angel.”

Steven (center) on the day he was appointed to CASA of CGS. “He was so so excited this day,” Julia Shulzhenko, CASA of CGS’s recruitment and training coordinator, recalled. “He shook hands with the judge and told her how excited he was for this opportunity. You could just tell this day meant so much to him.” 

“Steven was the first person I met at Hopeloft. As I sat alone on the couch waiting for my first interview—mid panic attack, worrying about messing up the interview, about not getting hired, about not being accepted for who I was if I got hired—a smiling face strolled over and sat across from me,” Annalisa Ciro, a grant administrator and writer for CASA of CGS, added. “I’m sure Steven didn’t know I was there shaking with anxiety, but he knew that there was someone new in the building and, being Steven, he definitely wanted to talk to them. We went on about Vineland and Sicily and he fired out so many questions that at a certain point I wondered if this was the actual job interview in disguise (to which I started panicking again). It wasn’t, though, it was just Steven being Steven.”

In addition to his love for serving the South Jersey community, Steven was one of CASA of CGS’s most creative volunteers. He studied at Antonelli’s Institute of Art and Photography after graduating from Vineland High School in 1973, and that experience helped him find his passion in the form of photography. Steven worked as a staff photographer at the Wheaton Museum of American Glass for 11 years, and he also honed his skills in interior, exterior, and portrait photography.

According to his Facebook page, Steven also did some acting and played music on the side. He once was part of the roving entertainers at the Trump Taj Mahal. He also played the harmonica, drums, some guitar, and the flute. Although it wasn’t his main responsibility, Steven would occasionally get the chance to showcase his creative side at Hopeloft events.

“Steven was a constant figure for me with everything I did at Hopeloft during his time with us,” Hillary Nichols, Hopeloft’s outreach and events coordinator, said. “Whether I was holding a volunteer opportunity, giveaway event or holding an open mic, he always showed up with a smile and his camera and he was never afraid to jump in and get his hands dirty. I remember one particular open mic, it was slow and we didn’t have many performers, so Steven jumped on stage and entertained the crowd with no hesitation for most of the night, it was so natural for him. He literally saved the show!”

Steven (center) as the sultan at the Trump Taj Mahal in 2011.

But ultimately, Steven’s life was never about his own personal accomplishments or skills. He was as selfless as they come, and his pure passion for serving the community was evident in the enthusiasm he brought to his work every day.

“Be the things you love most about the people who are gone,” Steven once said.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and loved ones of Steven Defelice. He will be missed.

Follow South Jersey provides local journalism which highlights our diverse communities; fosters transparency through robust, localized, and vital reporting that holds leaders and institutions accountable; addresses critical information needs; supports people in navigating civic life; and equips people with the information necessary to partake in effective community engagement. If there is a story or event you think we should cover, please send your tips to with “NEWS” in the subject line.