Mary Deborah Rola

Mary Deborah Rola, Debbie—Mother, Nurse, grandmother, aunt, godmother, and cousin—died at home in Princeton Junction, NJ Monday, December 21, 2020, in the loving arms of her son. She leaves behind an extended network of grieving family and friends, heartbroken by her departure.

She is survived by five children and five grandchildren: Tina Nuppnau-Singh (husband Harpreet) and daughter Tallulah; Matthew Iwamaye (wife Melissa); Amy Iwamaye (husband Lu Cai) and sons Max and Miles; Andrew Iwamaye (wife Tram) and children Liem and Hana; and Daniel Iwamaye (husband Graeme). As well, she leaves her sisters, Bernadette Manara and Angela Rola, cousins Benjamin and Anne Lazo, Lynette and Bob Kabula, Robert and Karen Rola, as well as many other first cousins, nieces and nephews (Jennifer Nichols, Benny Lazo, Garrett and Justin Matsushita, and Morgan Toy), and godchildren (Lisa Nichols and Marissa Lazo) both in the U.S. and in the Philippines.

Born May 26, 1949 in New York City, NY to Salvacion and Fred Rola, new immigrants from the Philippines, Debbie was a loving, nurturing, gracious leader. She spent her life in New Jersey, growing up in Teaneck with her two sisters, Bernadette and Angela, and cousin Benjamin Lazo. She graduated from St. Cecilia High School in Englewood, NJ in 1967, and was student council President her senior year. Debbie studied Nursing at Catholic University from 1967-1971, graduating with a BSN. After graduation, she worked as an OB-GYN nurse at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.   

She married Donald Nuppnau in 1973. She gave birth to her first child, Tina Marie Nuppnau, in 1974. In 1979 she married Hiroshi Iwamaye, and together they had four children—Matthew, Amy, Andrew and Daniel. They raised their family in Middletown, NJ. When her family moved to Middletown, she later resumed her work in nursing at a local pediatric medical practice.

Debbie was most happy when surrounded by her children, grandchildren, sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews, and godchildren, putting her own needs and wants aside to always make sure those around her felt loved, and provided for. Debbie dedicated her life to her children and grandchildren; as a dedicated sports mom, school tutor, chef, home nurse, disciplinarian, and jack-of-all trades super mom, Debbie poured her entire energy into the success and well-being of her children.  Later in life, Debbie was the proud grandma (or Meema) of five beautiful grandkids. Debbie was able to be with each of her grandkids early-on in their lives, dedicating all of her time and energy to making sure her grandkids felt loved, protected, and cared for.  When asked about her grandchildren Debbie would light up--they were her life, and she gave them all of her energy.  

Debbie was also a devoted daughter. As the eldest daughter and closest confidant of her parents, she helped them both through a gracious end of life, and stewarded the entire family in support of them. A dedicated sister to Angela and Bernadette—the “Three Musketeers”—the three of them could always be found laughing together at every family function while sharing childhood memories, and supporting each other through life’s various ups and downs. Through their example, Debbie’s children learned the value of family, and what it means to support your siblings. Debbie also cherished her relationship with her cousins, Ben and Lynette, and her many relatives, enjoying family parties in Teaneck, NJ that provided a lifetime of memories.  Cousin Benny, known by all in the family as “Uncle Benny,” was a guiding force in her life, whom she loved like a brother, looking to him for wisdom, support, a good laugh or cry, and in their younger days, nights out on the town hitting the disco!

While Debbie will be profoundly missed by her family, she is most assuredly with her parents, Fred and Sally, partying up in Heaven, waiting for everyone else to join them.  


In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance https://ocrahope.org