SPF remembers Mrs. McCormack

Vicki McCormack poses for her yearbook picture. She worked in the main office for 30 years.

Vicki McCormack poses for her yearbook picture. She worked in the main office for 30 years.

by Hope Brand, guest writer 
After more than a month, it has not gotten any easier to walk into the main office and see Vicki McCormack’s empty chair. There’s no doubt we’ll be feeling her loss for some time to come in the many facets of day-to-day life at the high school that depended on her knowledge and expertise. But most of all, we’ll be missing Vicki for what she meant to us personally.
Though many years of living in New Jersey eventually conditioned her to hate the cold, Vicki remained a true Yankee. She was raised deep in the Adirondack Mountains in the isolated town of Saranac where hunters cured venison on their front porches, children skied as soon as they could walk, and, as she would say, “there was always a cloud over the lake.” She and I both remembered fondly the north-country habit of letting babies nap outside even in the winter, wrapped in wool and down and snug in their carriages. Years later in Fanwood, whenever a snowstorm threw native New Jerseyans into a panic, Vicki and her neighbor would cheerfully brave the weather with dinner at Charlie Brown’s.
At the high school, Vicki’s organized, hard-working, no-nonsense approach to her job ensured the smooth operation of everything from field trips, substitute-teacher assignments, and building usage to a steady supply of letterhead, forms, and even postage stamps. While Vicki’s daily tasks were too varied and numerous to count, she managed to take care of everything with aplomb while answering fifty different questions about fifty different problems from fifty different people each day in a never-ending stream of visitors and phone calls to the main office. In the face of such astounding efficiency, who among us has not quaked with fear as we belatedly handed Vicki our field trip forms, substitute folders, and staff manuals?
And yet, who was not drawn in by that smile, the daily inquiry about our children, vacations, and pets? Vicki remembered and cared about all of us and about our families. Intensely private regarding her own personal life, Vicki celebrated the milestones in our lives with genuine happiness, and mourned our losses and setbacks with authentic sorrow.
It was always the students, though, whom Vicki liked the most. A loyal Raider fan, Vicki cheered our athletes regardless of wins or losses and loved watching football players pile their plates high at every quarter-dip dinner. Of course, she never missed the spring musical, noting individual performances with a critic’s appreciative eye and ear. She also had a big soft spot for freshmen trying to find their way around the school, for absentminded students whose mothers dropped off their forgotten lunches, and especially—tenderly—for the trouble-making kids who had to sit in the main office waiting to be disciplined by administrators.
It all happened so fast: one day Vicki was in the office as usual, and then it seemed we just blinked and her daughter and granddaughter were coming up from Florida to plan her wake. As they and others who knew her best, especially Karen Taylor and Bev Moskal, struggle through their grief to fill the gap left by Vicki’s passing, we all bear the burden of loss. Vicki was her private self to the end, and so, what she felt and where she believed she was heading is a mystery. But our pain is clear. As the great poet Emily Dickinson wrote, “Parting is all we know of heaven/And all we need of hell.”