Cesar Oritz designed beautiful gardens and yards, but friends say he was also a builder of relationships.
The landscape architect and business owner was known for his big smile and his ability to not only find out someone’s name quickly, but also remember it the next time he saw the person.
At his business, Lawrence Landscapes on Bakers Basin Road, Ortiz enjoyed getting to know families who visited his business to buy their annual Christmas trees.
“He loved watching the kids grow up as they returned with their families year after year,” employee Nanci Angle told mourners who gathered at The Church of St. Ann yesterday for Ortiz’ funeral.
Ortiz 50, died Tuesday, Aug. 30 in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, which caused massive flooding along the Route 1 corridor in Lawrence.
He was trying to clear flood water from the rear of his landscaping company when he was sucked down a manhole and into a sewer pipe. Rescue workers searched nearly two miles of pipes for almost eight hours before finding his body at the end of the sewer line at the Ewing-Lawrence Sewerage Authority plant on Whitehead Road.
Friends, family and colleagues struggled to come to grips with the tragic circumstances of his death as they mourned today at his funeral.
Several hundred people attended the service led by the Rev. Vince Gartland, many of them weeping softly as Ortiz’s 11-year-old son, Marcos, addressed the crowd and said he would miss the father who made him feel special every time he walked in the room.
Beloved by employees for his desire to mentor them, Ortiz was known for his strong work ethic and high standards, summed up in his motto, “Good enough isn’t good enough.”
Nanci Angle said her boss supported her as she sought new opportunities at work, saying: “If you want to change, you can reinvent yourself.”
New York Native, Ortiz lived in Lawrence most his life. A 1979 graduate of the Hun School, he attended Rutgers University and studied landscape architecture. He started his business in 1980 in Lawrence, and later expanded to Ewing.
Donations in memory of Ortiz can be made to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Ave., New York, N.Y., 10065.
Ortiz was one of two Mercer County residents to died as a result of the strong flood waters caused by Hurricane Irene. Thirty-nine-year-old Michael Kenwood died as a result of injuries sustained during a rescue operation on Rosedale Road near the Johnson Park School early Sunday morning. Kenwood, a member of the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad, was swept up by the quick moving waters and was found unconscious and in cardiac arrest. He died late that night at the University Medical Center at Princeton.