Saying goodbye: Theresa Giglio retired from her post as Grant-White school secretary this year. She healed the sick, comforted the afflicted and knew each child by name.Courtesy Theresa Giglio

Theresa Giglio was given a warm send-off by the students and staff at Grant-White School, as she wrapped up 29 years as school secretary. They surprised her in the gym on June 3, greeting her with a standing ovation.

Sitting down in an easy chair at center court, Theresa was treated to a production featuring the entire student body and a surprise guest star, her husband Frank. The students thanked Mrs. Giglio for “taking our temperatures, bandaging our wounds and being our mother away from home.” They followed this up with skits warning her to be careful what she wishes for in retirement.

The stage was decorated with a bed, conference table and a casino mock-up. If Theresa wishes to take a nap, she might hear the gentle voice of her husband asking, “Where’s my socks? Where’s my glasses? Can you make me a nice sausage sandwich?” If she gets together with other district retirees, she’ll hear about cataract surgery, acid reflux and knee replacements. Playing the slots at the gambling boat might also end on a sour note, with Frank “borrowing” her winnings. Each skit ended with the lament, “I swear I never should have left Grant-White.”

The students then launched into a finger-snapping, hand-jiving rendition of “At the Hop.” Frank took her for a spin on the dance floor, encircled by staff members clapping along. This was followed by a gentle ballad, “Thinking of You.” After the students sang, they filed up to give Theresa hugs and cards, accompanied by “Through the Years” by Kenny Rodgers.

“I love each and every one of you,” Theresa said to the students, “I feel like you’re part of my family. Thank you so much for this wonderful surprise.” There were more surprises to come. Theresa was presented with a blanket bearing a photograph of the Grant-White students. Principal Wendy Trotter also gave her a card inviting her to a dinner in her honor that night at Francesca Fiore’s.

Theresa and Frank moved to Forest Park in 1971 and raised their three kids, Tony, Rosemarie and Frankie, at 1501 Marengo. She worked at nearby Betsy Ross School, as lunch monitor and health aide for four years. She was then encouraged to take the secretary job at Grant-White. Theresa confessed that it’s a very demanding job, with constant requests and interruptions. Working with friends and being surrounded by students made it all worth it.

“I love doing what I’m doing, but I thought it was time to move on.”

She’ll continue working part-time at the Costco, kitty-corner from her condo. Otherwise, “We’ll just relax and take things as they come. I just want the two of us to be together.”

Theresa has already warned her successor that she’ll be part of everything that goes on in the building. “The secretary is the first person to meet the parents and kids.” If so, Grant-White is losing a wonderful ambassador.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.

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