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Dozens of Tyl Middle School staff members gathered in the library on a Friday in April to remember a woman who was "kind to everyone," according to chorus teacher Judy Abrams.
Donations from staff members went toward the purchase of a plaque in memory of Annette Ridolfi, who died in February after 15 years as the middle school secretary. Teachers, administration and Ridolfi's family members exchanged memories before picking up food from the conference room, which has now been renamed the Ridolfi Room.
Ridolfi "touched the lives of so many people here," said Lindsay Olock, a seventh grade language arts teacher and a member of the "Glad and Sad" committee that donated the plaque and decided to rename the conference room. "Glad and Sad" does things in recognition of life events that effect people at Tyl, whether they're things that make people "glad," like a birth, or "sad," like Ridolfi's death.
"We all miss her every single day," said Olock.
All the Tyl teachers seemed to have memories of the little ways that Ridolfi had reached out to them. Olock described how the secretary had spoken with her about children during her first pregnancy. Other staff members said she would routinely ask about their kids and offer suggestions for age-appropriate entertainment, often mentioning her daughter Michele O'Neill's involvement in Kidsploration. And everyone agreed that Ridolfi's compassion and respect extended to the kids visiting the principal's office for discipline.
"I never saw her become unglued," said Abrams, even when things got crazy in the main office. She said Ridolfi would always check up on how people were feeling and was always willing to give a hug.
"We're all better for (Ridolfi)," said Abrams, "When she wasn't with her regular family, this was her family."
Members of Ridolfi's "regular" family were touched by the stories shared during Sunday's ceremony.
Ridolfi is "probably turning somersaults in heaven" because she was a quiet woman who had no idea how well-liked she was, said her daughter, Lori DeLucia, after Friday's ceremony.
When visiting places in Montville with her parents, said DeLucia, her mom seemed to know everybody by name. She "made everyone feel important," she explained.
Ridolfi was also known for her love of art and was an "excellent artist" who enjoyed painting, drawing portraits and had a flair for design, said DeLucia.
In recognition of that, another school committee, the "Dress Down" committee, has raised $358 for a Tyl Middle School student interested in art. For teachers at the middle school to dress casually on Fridays, said committee member Amy Richter, they are asked to donate a minimum of $1. Two weeks of donations went to the Ridolfi scholarship.
And there was something else that defined Ridolfi, said her 7-year-old grandson, who only offered his opinion after politely asking his mother, DeLucia, "Can I say something?"
"She was so smart," said Gavin DeLucia, who added that he and his sister Alexis, a sixth-grader, remember the woman they call "Nana" when they feel overwhelmed.