Community mourns Somerville woman who was 'a light in the room'

Maryrose Fealey was a bright light and tried very hard to shine it on others.

An artist and an anti-drug activist, Fealey, 27, was the woman found stabbed outside her family’s North Bridge Street home in Somerville Tuesday night, according to her colleagues and friends. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Authorities have asked for the public’s help in solving the case. The Somerset County Prosecutor's Office has not confirmed the identity of the victim, saying it was going to wait for the Medical Examiner to completed the post-mortem examination and make a positive identification.

Somerville Mayor Brian Gallagher, who knows the family, called Fealey’s killing a "senseless tragedy."

"We live in a small, tight-knit community where everyone is your neighbor, and this affects our entire community greatly," Gallagher said. "A vigil was held last night which celebrated a beautiful life full of promise, direction and hope, and brought many people together. The outpouring of love and care for the family was very emotional."

The mayor said the Somerville Police Department and Somerset County Prosecutor's Office are "working tirelessly “to bring swift justice."

Fealey was many things – entrepreneur, visual artist, champion of the underdog, philanthropist, writer, logistician; a woman who would move mountains to help others.

Maryrose Fealey was found stabbed to death outside her family's home in Somerville Tuesday night. She was 27.
Maryrose Fealey was found stabbed to death outside her family's home in Somerville Tuesday night. She was 27.

"Most of the people in this organization are accustomed to dealing with death. This was a brutality that I don't think anybody was ready for," said Jack Rannells, who with his wife Ellen runs the nonprofit organization Not An Easy Fix (NAEF), of which Fealey was a committee member. "Maryrose Fealey was thought of by many as a 'light' in the room or in their day whenever they spoke of her. She was one to 'show up,' be supportive, bring positive energy, plus willingness and kindness to the task at hand."

More: Prosecutor dispels misinformation about Somerville homicide, again asks for public's help

Rannells said that upon hearing the horrific news of Fealey’s death, NAEF’s committee members Ian Bockus, Mike Cameroni and Mike Nemeth organized a vigil Wednesday evening. About 100 people, including friends, family and local officials, came to honor Fealey at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Somerville to “speak of her impact on their lives and support one another in their grief," Rannells said.

"She was always extremely supportive and had a big smile whenever she entered a room," said Bockus. "My friend group and I have dealt with a lot of loss over the years but never anything like this. It doesn’t make sense and it isn’t right, but it’s times like this where we need to come together as a family and a community and offer our support. It’s a time to hold our loved ones a little closer and tell the people we love that we love them because tomorrow isn’t promised and events like this show you how fragile life is."

Father Ron Pollock of St. John’s Episcopal Church led Wednesday’s candlelight vigil.

"I had no clue how the evening would unfold, but I thought it would be a good thing for us to be together," Pollock said. "To underscore the fact that we are together as one community and to reinforce that there's no right or wrong way to go through the grieving process. I shared that one moment, I don't know what I'm feeling. The next minute, I'm very angry and the next minute, I'm very sad.

“There were people who stood up and just shared how much they loved Maryrose and her wonderful spirit and just the way she carried herself as a person, being very positive. She would always be an encourager and a cheerleader for people, so they keep moving on forward, if they were a person in recovery or not. She would always be a force for good."

Pollock said they ended the evening by standing in a very large circle with everyone holding their candles.

"It was very powerful because it shared, it communicated even without words that we stand as one and that we are meant to be light in a dark world," said Pollock, who concluded his thoughts at the vigil with a prayer. "And that we're meant to walk together. And that we're meant to share the story, not just there, or leave it somewhere behind us. We want to carry the story of Maryrose with us forward to tell people how wonderful of a person she was."

Fealey was tireless in her efforts to empower youth and those battling addiction, including her older brother Ian Fealey. Founder of the 4 The Younger Me (4TYM), Fealey also was involved with the nonprofits Not An Easy Fix, DJ Choices and Empower Somerset.

She created 4TYM to change the stigma surrounding addiction and empower young people. She firmly believed that "substance abuse does not define the person" and that "a toxic environment does not define the child’s future."

Fealey gained TikTok fame as she shared her mission, as she called it, and her story. In 2021 her efforts to get her brother off drugs and into recovery are shown in a Brut documentary that followed the two for three weeks. A follow-up documentary in 2022 found the two dealing with relapse, recovery and advocating for people to live clean, sober lives. According to that documentary, Ian Fealey had been clean since Dec. 14, 2021.

According to the Jack and Ellen Rannells, both of whom run Not An Easy Fix, which was founded by their son Jackson Rannells before his death of a fentanyl overdose in 2021, Fealey was proud to have grown up and been a part of the borough's school system in her formative years.

"She continued that community-centered ownership and enthusiasm as an adult," the Rannells said. "We were fortunate to have her be a member of Not An Easy Fix’s team and committee. She wanted to spread awareness about the opioid epidemic and fentanyl crisis and wanted to save lives through any means possible. She was one of our most active committee members bringing energy, support, creativity, and life experience to all of our programs and projects. One could call on her for help and count on her to care. She often spoke at our events, was videotaped often, and always helped to promote and publicize our cause."

In a 2022 Not An Easy Fix program that Fealey, her brother and their mother participated in together, Fealey concluded her speech by saying "And it's definitely not an easy fix, but there is always hope."

That same year Fealey was featured in an episode of the podcast "Grieving Out Loud," hosted by Angela Kennecke, founder of Emily's Hope, a nonprofit organization formed in the wake of Kennecke's daughter's death of a fentanyl overdose.

"I'm deeply sorry to hear about the tragic loss of Maryrose Fealey, who played a significant role in raising awareness about addiction and supporting her brother's recovery," Kennecke said. "I found Maryrose to be a dedicated and compassionate individual who made every effort to help her brother while also advocating for addiction awareness. Her story serves as a reminder of the challenges and stigma associated with substance use disorder and the importance of supporting individuals on their journey to recovery.

“Maryrose's resilience and unwavering love for her brother have left a lasting impact, and her efforts to share their story have undoubtedly touched the lives of many. We honor her memory and commitment to making a difference in the lives of those affected by addiction."

Last March she along with her brother and other members of Not An Easy Fix and DJ Choices presented an anti-drug program at their alma mater Somerville High School. Fealey graduated in 2014.

"Because a lesson learned is a lesson shared and your mindset is everything," Fealey said in her speech to the students. "While you can't immediately change certain situations you find yourself in, having a positive mindset changes your ability to deal with that situation. Your mind, your development, your life is so important. And the fastest way to heal yourself is by changing that internal dialogue. Make your mind a sanctuary and I know it's not an easy fix, but there is always hope and we have a lot of hope in your generation."

A 2018 graduate of Rutgers Business School, Fealey was a Logistics Management Specialist who focused on logistics, decentralization, material and supply chain management. A former federal employee for the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Fealey had taken a break from her profession to focus on her mission work as she called it.

"I take life very seriously," Fealey said in one of her popular @4theyoungerme TikTok videos. "Like, I have engraved in my mind that I'm on a mission here on Earth. Like I'm on a mission, constantly on a mission. And I'm not saying that that's good. I'm not saying that that's a good trait either because it drives me crazy, because if I'm not doing something that's mission-oriented, I get very hard on myself mentally."

At the time of her death, Fealey was working as a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker Realty and looking to get back into her work as a logistics management specialist, along with building up her work with the nonprofit organizations.

Funeral arrangements are not yet known.


Cheryl Makin is an award-winning features and education reporter for, part of the USA Today Network. Contact: or @CherylMakin. To get unlimited access, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

This article originally appeared on Maryrose Fealey identified as Somerville NJ homicide victim