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Toms River’s Own Celebrity, ‘Miss Liberty,’ Sondra Fortunato Dies

Sondra Fortunato (File Photo)

Sondra Fortunato (File Photo)

Local celebrity, beauty queen and community staple Sondra Fortunato has died, the Toms River Republican organization has reported and Shorebeat confirmed.

As “Miss Liberty,” Sondra Fortunato was instantly recognizable in and around Toms River. For decades, Fortunato embodied the notion of “local celebrity” and took it to new heights. The blonde icon was known for her placard-plastered Cadillac which she would sit atop wearing incredible gowns and crowns, as she waved to parade-goers from all local parades and many special events.

She was also a fixture at NFL games, such as the New York Giants, where she once served as an official mascot, and would regal with tales of the many celebrities she was photographed with throughout the years: Bill Murray, Slyvester Stallone, professional sports stars and more.

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Her titles, many earned and many others self-proclaimed, would be worn as sashes, held as signs and affixed to her vehicle, creating a larger-than-life personality that beamed like her smile and eyes. “Miss Jets Bombers” she would wear to a NY Jets game, holding a sign in front of her bustline saying “These Jets are Real.”

With often patriotic outfits with themes of red, white and blue, Miss Liberty would attend most big community events and parades, such as Toms River’s large Halloween Parade, but also high school graduations to partake of the fanfare of these celebrations. It was as though she was a big sparkling celebration herself – and if you didn’t have a Sondra Fortunato story yourself do you even live in Toms River?

Whether you encountered her at a community event or parade, or wondered how that Cadillac was navigating Route 37, or tried to help her at the print station at Toms River Staples, everyone knew Miss Liberty.

With the NY Post reporting last fall that Fortunato was amid a cancer struggle for her eye and Bells Palsey, Miss Liberty was asking fans to support a GoFundMe. Fortunato was still making appearances, and was among the participants in the Halloween Parade, waving to supporters in what is known as the largest family-friendly Halloween parade in the nation. She told the Post she wouldn’t miss it, and she didn’t, even though the day was peppered with rain and cold, she rode down Main and Washington streets for the parade, waving as she always did. With her passing, we will miss Miss Liberty.


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