“Education” and “Family” were referenced again and again by Marie Marra McGuire as the most important aspects in her life when we interviewed her in May 2015. The former teacher (although, once a teacher, always a teacher!) and guidance counselor was eighty-two years old then, and in frail health. She died a year later, on May 25, 2016. Education and Family were certainly prevalent on Saturday morning, April 22, at the Secaucus Public Library when family and friends gathered in the Adult Reading Room to honor Marie’s contributions to the public library. Marie served as the very first president of the Friends of the Secaucus Public Library and remained an adviser to the group following her tenure as its head. Library Director Jenifer May put it this way Saturday morning: “When I became library director in 2009, I was fortunate to have Marie as an active Friends’ member. Her title at that time was ‘past presidential advisor.’ It was such an apt title. She gave excellent advice, not always what I wanted to hear, but very much what I needed to hear in order to do right by remember Marie as being somewhat staid and serious.
Current Friends of the Library president Karyn Corso Lusskin also spoke about the Friends organization and of her memories of Marie.
Marie Marra married Joseph McGuire in 1954. He, too, was an educator and guidance counselor and shared his wife’s love of learning and of libraries. Joe McGuire died at the young age of 58 in 1988. The couple had no children.
Many members of the Marra family were present, including Marie’s two nephews, Christopher Marra and Michael Marra, the sons of her late brother, Michael Marra, and his wife, Margaret Marra (now Cutola). Michael’s wife, Ellen, and their son, Alex, a sixth grader at Secaucus Middle School, were present, in addition to Marie’s cousins, Michael and Gerard Marra, Gerard’s wife and daughter, Greta and Susan, Michael’s daughter Linda, and Tony Cutola, Margaret’s husband. Mayor Mike Gonnelli and town council members Susan Pirro, Jim Clancy, and John Gerbasio also attended. Marie’s friends and current and former members of the Friends of the Library were on hand, including Eleanore and Fred Reinl, Joe DeFerrari, Georgine Gallo, Louise Rittberg, Jackie Tuzzio, Ellen Jerkovich, Zinnia Miller, Maryann Pollio, Lyn Farulla, and Fran Fedkenheuer. (There were others who attended the ceremony we are unable to name.)
We conclude our coverage of the dedication of the plaque to Marie Marra McGuire, a woman who touched the lives of thousands of young people (her students) and who remains a memorable figure in her beloved hometown, with the tribute her nephew Michael Marra delivered Saturday morning:
Whenever a town wants to undertake a large construction project, there are always people who say, “It costs too much money. Let’s not do it,” even if the project is carefully budgeted. When this library was first proposed, it wasn’t any different. But there were also arguments against this library that didn’t have to do with money. There were those who said that libraries are a thing of the past, having been replaced by Google and Amazon. Even if the new library is a state-of-the-art facility, it will sit empty and unused.
Fortunately, those people weren’t listened to, because they have been proven wrong. Our library is a beautiful, modern facility that is used extensively by the people of Secaucus, and people from other towns as well.
Marie McGuire was one of those who believed in a new library and what it could do for people. She became an active participant of the library in many ways, from serving as the first president of the Friends of the Secaucus Public Library, to overseeing the sale of raffle tickets during the Library’s annual mini-fair. She did those things and many more, even in her later years.
When Marie passed away last year, many of her colleagues and former students came to pay their respects. I heard more than one of her former students, now in their 30s and 40s, say, “Mrs. McGuire is the only reason I have a high school diploma.” Marie cared just as much about the student who struggled to earn Bs and Cs as much as she cared for straight A students who seemed to have things come easily to them. The fact that a student wasn’t destined to be a lawyer or a doctor was irrelevant to her. She worked hard with all of her students and she made them work hard as well so that their future was a positive one of their own making.
I think that this passion extended to her love of the Secaucus Library. She knew that a facility such as this could provide endless opportunities to people. People of all ages, people who come from all walks of life and people pursuing all kinds of goals could use the library to help make something of their lives. In the end, using the library as a positive instrument in making a life will always be the greatest way that anyone can ever pay tribute to Marie McGuire.