Lost gems in Suffolk Public Schools

Published 9:53 pm Monday, June 16, 2014

Retiring, I can image, is a life experience with many different emotions, including glee and trepidation.

On Friday, the last day of the school year, various Suffolk Public Schools staff members retired from various schools, as happens every year.

But one particular school, Florence Bowser Elementary, lost several important members of its community.

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Topping the list for noteworthiness was Florence Marrone, who turned 85 Friday and retired after notching up about 24 years as a teacher assistant.

She was looking forward to spending more time with her family — most of whom are in New York — from great-grandchildren on up.

But she was understandably somber about leaving behind the Florence Bowser children that are also her family.

Meanwhile, the school will miss the laughs generated by LouAnne Snethen, whom colleagues described as Florence Bowser’s resident comedian.

Snethen retired Friday after 12 years at Florence Bowser, and she worked at Elephant’s Fork Elementary School before that.

Her husband retires in another 13 months, Snethen said, and the two are looking forward to some travel.

Snethen emailed me over the weekend to say that while she loves hearing children laugh, she took her job very seriously.

“I hope I have earned the right to say I have touched very many children’s lives, along with loving them and helping them in all aspects of learning and with their social skills,” she wrote. “Children are a GIFT and when you give to them you can feel their love.”

After about 17 years, Florence Bowser also lost librarian Florence Michener. And after more than 30 years, it lost custodian Jasper Waters.

These losses will be felt all the more by Florence Bowser, because, catering to Early Start through first grade, it’s Suffolk’s smallest public school.

Marrone, who was the district’s eldest employee, said Friday she had to “swallow hard” a few times to keep from crying.

She plans to return to the school as a regular volunteer, but as she sat behind the front desk and students filed past her, on their way out the door to summer, Marrone looked just a little stunned.

As principal Cheryl Riddick put it, “They have done a magnificent job of impacting the lives of children. We are very happy they are able to retire, and we are thankful for the time we have been able to spend with them.”

Marrone, Snethen, Michener and Waters will certainly be missed.