A month of Making Strides against Breast Cancer walks starts this weekend with walks from Binghamton and Buffalo to Rochester and Waterloo. I’ll be at the Syracuse walk in Clinton Square, where I last worked in 2010, back when this blog was all fresh, shiny and new. So far, the weather looks good, much better than the rain that blankets most of our state today. Regardless of the name, folks, every dollar raised fights cancers of all kinds, as research finds more and more links among the variety of cancers.
Every walk helps raise awareness. If you think people don’t need to be reminded, let me introduce you to Miriam Longobardi. I’ll be thinking about Miriam while I’m in Syracuse, even though she’ll be miles away and won’t walk until Oct. 21. I think about her young girls, who still have their mother, thanks to the baseline mammogram she had 10 years ago. That mammogram found an extremely invasive type of breast cancer that had already spread to her lymph nodes. “I wouldn’t have made it to 40,” she told me, as she tells others, every year when she walks.
I will also think about Alyce Petrecki a lot this weekend. A retired NYSUT staffer, she died this morning from lung cancer. A proud member of the Communications Workers of American, Local 1141, she worked NYSUT’s switchboard for years and, when I started in 1993, she was the secretary for New York Teacher. She was that kind of secretary who always seemed to have the answer to everything, like who to call to fix the copier. We have a tradition in this office of writing songs when people retire. The perfect song was written to Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” because of it’s refrain “Go ask Alice, I think she’ll know.”
She also had the best phone manner you could imagine, so we often transferred callers with complicated questions to her. She would listen, however long it took, to figure out how to get an answer or who might have it. These days, when you can rarely reach an actual person on the phone, that’s a lost art.
It’s hard to call Alyce retired, and none of her former colleagues are even sure of her official retirement date. It just seemed she was often here — filling in, stopping by, helping out. Through her 70s, she would still work the switchboard, covering for those who went on vacations. She was even scheduled to work Sept. 13, but called in sick as she had only days earlier gotten the diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer. (Here’s a link to her obituary in the Albany Times-Union that really captures her style, grace and wit.)
She was 81 and we will miss her.