A strong finish at 85Published 9:33pm Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Florence Marrone, Suffolk Public Schools’ oldest employee, came to the profession of education late in life.
This month, the teacher’s assistant at Florence Bowser Elementary School will retire at 85.
She began her service to the district about 24 years ago.
Marrone has been on staff at Florence Bowser for 17 years, after she was at Driver Elementary School for four years. She volunteered with the school district for three years before that.
“We moved here from Long Island, (and) I wanted something to do,” Marrone explained Wednesday, sitting in a silent Florence Bowser library.
“The first thing that came to mind was doing volunteer work at school.”
Indirectly, according to Marrone, a long-lost cousin they discovered in Virginia brought her and her late husband here to live.
The couple first dropped in on the cousin en-route to Louis Marrone’s heart surgery at Duke University Medical Center at Durham, N.C., Florence Marrone said.
Visiting the cousin became an annual affair, she said, and Louis Marrone grew to like the area more and more.
“He liked the idea that it wasn’t as busy as Long Island. He thought the roads were good,” Florence Marrone said. “Everything here was neat.”
But she said it took her three years to agree to move. “We came in ’85 or ’86,” she said.
Marrone said that for many years after joining Suffolk Public Schools, her classes were combined kindergarten and first grade.
“This year, I was with first grade most of the year, and that would be my choice,” she said.
The satisfaction of seeing children learn has kept her in the classroom, Marrone said.
“In my first job, there were a group of children that couldn’t read,” she said. “One teacher in particular said there were three students that were going to be held back.”
But Marrone said that the teacher thanked her personally after two of those students subsequently passed their grade level.
“When I see a light go on in a child’s head, that’s from learning something,” she said.
Marrone said that most of all, she loves reading to the children. “Right now, we are reading ‘Charlotte’s Web,’ and they are just so absorbed by it,” she said.
A principal once asked her why she didn’t go back to school to become a teacher, Marrone recalled.
“I said, ‘I don’t think so — not at my age,’” she said.
Back in New York, Florence Marrone had spent 13 years in the registrar’s office at C.W. Post College. She said she could have studied there for free.
Marrone turns 85 on June 13, which also happens to be her last day with the children as a district employee.
She has two sons in New York, a daughter in Virginia, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, she said.
After her retirement, Marrone plans to continue volunteering in the classroom. She visits her family in New York every June, and her next visit will coincide with the birth of her third great-grandchild, a boy.
Educating has given her life purpose, particularly since her husband’s death in 2011, Marrone said.
“It’s not easy when the alarm clock goes off at 6:30,” she said, “but when I’m up, I’m fine.”
Her eldest son — 63 in July — retired six or seven years ago, Marrone said. Meanwhile, she just kept on working.