McGuire reading nook dedicated to former teacher

McGuire reading nook dedicated to former teacher

Susan Palumbo, once a student at James L. McGuire Elementary School, in North Providence, was honored with a Book Nook in her memory at the school’s library in a dedication ceremony held there last Saturday. Susan died in 2017 at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at the age of 54. She was the valedictorian of her high school class and an honors graduate from Harvard and Simmons Colleges. Attending the dedication were, from left, McGuire Principal Bruce Butler, Susan’s cousin, Ann Flannery, Susan’s sister Mary Palumbo, illustrator Gina Tripodi, who worked on a children’s book with Susan, and Susan’s sister Jane Sheehan. (Breeze photos by Charles Lawrence)

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Last Saturday morning, members of the community and those closest to the late Susan Palumbo gathered at McGuire Elementary School’s new library to dedicate a reading nook in her memory.

Friends and family of Palumbo said they couldn’t think of a better way to memorialize this “lifelong learner” who had a deep love of reading.

Palumbo had attended McGuire, was North Providence High School’s 1980 valedictorian, and went on to graduate with honors from Harvard and earn a master’s degree from Simmons College.

She stayed rooted to her home in North Providence, remaining strongly connected to her family and friends in the community.

In 1999, she was diagnosed with polycythemia vera, a rare blood cancer. After seven years, that turned into bone marrow cancer, or myelofibrosis. In January of 2017, Palumbo entered Brigham and Women’s Hospital for a bone marrow transplant. “She was upbeat, positive and looking forward to her future,” said her sister, Mary.

Susan never left medical care, and died on June 9, 2017.

Prior to her death, Susan and her sister Mary began writing a children’s book titled “The Hare on the Chair,” but Susan died before it was completed.

“It took me a bit to get back to the book, but it is now officially finished,” Mary said. There’s a plush hare under production to accompany the book, a theme incorporated into the reading nook at McGuire.

The nook is a cozy room off the main library at the new McGuire school, extending two stories tall. There are two bookshelves in the shape of birdhouses inside.

A tree climbs up the wall, with its branches used as bookshelves. Illustrations from “The Hare on the Chair” have been transferred onto the back of the tree, visible when children empty a shelf.

“We wanted to honor Susan in the best possible way. For my sister, that is with books, and with learning,” said Mary, an elementary teacher in town for more than 38 years.

“Susan considered books to be like so many cherished friends, friends to whom she would return often to take up conversation, wherever she left off. As Susan matured, she approached reading with a new vigor and with deeper perspectives. Susan loved books, and in the written word she found nourishment, enlightenment and strength,” Mary said.

At the dedication ceremony, Mary and sisters Ann and Jane, along with their cousin Annie, thanked those who helped bring the project to fruition, including Mayor Charles Lombardi, Supt. Joseph Goho and Assistant Supt. Louise Seitsinger, the North Providence School Committee and Principal Bruce Butler.

“We are grateful that James L. McGuire School is dedicating this reading nook to Susan and helping facilitate and create a space fitting of Susan and all students who seek to quench the thirst of learning through reading,” Mary said.

“Susan developed her love for reading at this very school. The teachers here encouraged that love of learning and the love of books in Susan - all helped to expand her expectations for herself and others,” she said at the dedication.

“On behalf of my family and Susan’s memory and her aspiration to reach out to students and encourage them to seek their potential and realize that success does not discriminate; that talent has no limits when enthusiasm for learning and yes, hard work is applied,” she added. “Susan believed in the indomitable spirit in a blossoming being and that we have a duty as adults to encourage and nurture it as someone once did for us.”

Illustrator Gina Tripodi holds up the children’s book “The Hare on the Chair” which she and Susan Palumbo worked on. Palumbo, once a student at James L. McGuire Elementary School, was honored posthumously with a Book Nook in her memory at the school’s library in a dedication ceremony held there on Saturday, Nov. 23.
A picture of Susan Palumbo as she appeared as a student at James L. McGuire Elementary School in North Providence.
Susan Palumbo’s friends gather at the Reading Nook Dedication to share memories of Susan. From left, are, Susie Robson, who said she was Susan’s good friend since 1987; Laura Flannery, Susan’s niece; Sasja Lucas, who said she knew Susan for five years; and Laura Houseman, who knew Susan for 20 years. Laura said Susan loved to read, was an expert in words, and sometimes like to read the Oxford Dictionary.