Scituate secretary Zarli celebrates 90th birthday

Scituate secretary Zarli celebrates 90th birthday

North Scituate Elementary School secretary Lillian Zarli goes over the morning announcements with 1st-graders Hope Clemence and Michael Correira before they read them over the PA system at the school. (Valley Breeze & Observer photos by David Wuerth)

SCITUATE - Lillian Zarli laughs at the thought of retirement.

"Why do I want to get up in the morning and sit and just watch 'The Price is Right'?" she asked, sitting behind her desk in the North Scituate Elementary School main office.

Mrs. Zarli, the beloved secretary at the school, celebrates her 90th birthday on April 5, but has asked coworkers and friends to forget about planning a party. If it weren't a Saturday, she would probably spend her birthday at school, doing the job she has held since 1977.

When she became the school secretary, she replaced the school's former secretary, Madeline Bache, who is now, Mrs. Zarli said, more than 100 years old.

"Boy, if you want to live a long time, be the North Scituate School secretary," she said with a laugh.

Mrs. Zarli, wife of the late Michael Zarli, moved to North Scituate in 1957 when her son was just six weeks old. She grew up in Providence, and it was her husband's idea to relocate.

"He always lived in the country and I always lived in the city," she said. When they moved to Scituate, she remembers, "It was like throwing me into the boondocks."

But when a neighbor brought over a loaf of homemade banana bread on her second day in town, she was sold.

"From that day forward, I've never regretted a minute here," Mrs. Zarli said, noting she lives just up the road from the school. "It's a wonderful community."

In their years in North Scituate, the Zarlis were active volunteers. Both were members of the Ambulance Corps day crew, with Mrs. Zarli serving as president of the corps for some time. She was also a founding member of the Scituate Art Festival, and she served on the North Scituate Public Library Board. Mr. Zarli worked with a Baptist youth organization.

The daughter of Swedish immigrants, Mrs. Zarli is also a member of the Rhode Island chapter of the Vasa Order of America, a Swedish fraternal organization, and serves as the district's cultural leader.

In 1969, once her two children - Marty Zarli and Kristine Zarli-Bloomquist - were in school full-time, she took a job as a teacher's aide at North Scituate Elementary School and worked in the position until she became the school's secretary some 40 years ago.

"I tend to not like too many changes," she said with a laugh, though she is a fan of using computers. But she draws the line at Facebook, saying, "Baloney. I do not need to let them know every step I take."

Mrs. Zarli has seen seven principals at the school. Since she began working there, the school has gained a gymnasium and extra classrooms to accommodate music and art classes.

She also now has her own parking spot, just feet from the back entrance to the school, complete with a sign of painted pink flowers and the words, "Reserved for Lil."

Even on a snowy Monday morning in March, Mrs. Zarli said she is enthusiastic about coming to work, and said she has never had the thought, "Why do I have to go to school?"

"The staff and the kids are absolutely terrific people," she said.

And at night, as she eats dinner and settles in to watch "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!" she said she usually thinks of something from that day that makes her smile.

In her office, she showed off a mug sitting on her desk that has pictures of her five great-grandchildren from her four grandchildren.

"I love my family. Not only my biological family, but my school family," she said. "I am so doggone lucky."

She said she realizes that no matter how much she wants to keep working, "age does creep up," and retirement may have to come someday.

"It's going to be a tough day, but, God willing, I'll live through it," she said. "I like basically my whole life. Everybody has bumps, but in my case, they've smoothed out fairly well. I really enjoy life."

North Scituate Elementary School secretary Lillian Zarli answers the phone at the start of her day.
North Scituate Elementary School secretary Lillian Zarli in her office at the start of her day. Mrs. Zarli turns 90 on April 5th.
Lillian Zarli's reserved parking sign behind the school.


Mrs. Zarli is the best. Scituate Elementary School is lucky to have her. Happy birthday, Mrs. Zarli! Kelly (Jemo) Metz

It has always amazed me that she never forgot a single name! She has many "children" and "grandchildren" that's for sure! Happy Birthday Mrs. Zarli!! XO Robin (Underwood) Kettle

Mrs. Zarli is the heart and soul of North Scituate Elementary! She is an amazing woman who remembers the name of every child and every parent, and makes everyone feel welcome. My sons are 24 and 26 and she still asks about them when I see her. Happy, happy birthday!

I have know Lil for as many years as she has lived in Scituate. My son attended the elementary scholl and to this day she remembers his name and ask how he is. I sure hope when I am 90 I will know all the people who have craossed my path. I wish her a wonderful Birthday with many many more to come.

I didn't know we had the same birthday and I loved Mrs Zarli so much in elementary school,so I would still remember! So happy to know she is still there making children happy and keeping the school in line! Great article! Amy (Skolnik) Neilson

I've been the school's Yearbook Representative for quite some time now and whenever I visit, Lil ALWAYS makes me feel so welcomed. The community is truly blessed to have her! I wish you many more birthdays, Lil. Sincerely, Kevin