FAIR LAWN, N.J.– The halls of Fair Lawn High School will miss a familiar face this fall after longtime matron Mary Rooney, 81, packed it in after 25 years.
"I will miss getting up daily and setting out to my job which I have loved for so many years," said Rooney, who worked at the school for 25 years. "It is so true that having a goal or purpose in one’s life keeps one young."
Rooney's duties included keeping the offices, trophy cases and other areas of the school clean.
But her fondest memories are the friendships she's made over the years.
"Not only those of my co-workers, but the many students that have touched my life over the years," Rooney said. "I had the pleasure of meeting students of all circumstance. From the advanced placement to those viewed as 'troubled.' One such 'troubled student' presented me a beautiful card upon my departure that brought me to tears. It’s fulfilling to know that I was able to touch so many lives."
Students knew her by name and she had a reputation for hugs. "She could always give a nonjudgmental word of support and encouragement to the most interesting of characters," said a former co-worker. "She would scurry around here making sure no one had a dirty coffee cup. If anyone brought in baked goods from home she would go into her secret stash of paper plates and napkins and set the table."
"She would hunt for misplaced items and organize them in plastic bags hoping someone would come to claim them. As a woman of honor and dignity, she performed all aspects of maintaining cleanliness and organization for our offices. She brought unexpected laughter when she would suddenly break into a dance move if someone had music playing," she said.
Rooney's retirement will allow her to care for her ailing husband.
The Fair Lawn High School staff told her son, Kevin, that it was the largest turnout for a retirement ceremony.
For now, Rooney will ease into her new schedule.
"I am traditionally off for the summer, so I won’t feel the full effects of retirement until September," she said.