An office run with love and laughter
Pat Keenan and Jane Fitzgerald are two Irish women running the ARHS main office, with a goal of making every person who passes their way smile and laugh a little.
Ms. Keenan’s favorite thing to do when she’s not busy at school is to read fiction, history, and drama novels that pull her into the stories.
One of her many hobbies is exercising. “I used to be a runner but now I take long walks with my 13- year old dog named Chili,” she said.
She has lived in downtown Northampton for about 25 years, where she loves to meet with her friends, and when she gets the chance, to go out for lunch with them. Besides these hobbies, what Keenan loves to do most is “laugh with people,” especially Ms. Fitzgerald.
Although she loves the gripping novels she reads in her free time, she also loves watching movies and cooking for the holidays. Her famous dishes include casseroles, stuffed onions, and creamed onions.
Ms. Keenan said, “There’s nowhere I’d rather be than at the beach.” Family means the most to Ms. Keenan and since hers is close and all healthy, it makes her feel “the luckiest.”
Before working at the ARHS office, Ms. Keenan taught special education in New Hampshire to young children. She met all different kinds of students there. When asked who she admires most, her response was, “People who have physical challenges or that have been through very traumatic accidents and have to live with it their whole lives.”
For the future, Ms. Keenan hopes to still be spending time in Western Massachusetts but also most of her time near the ocean or on the beach. “Anywhere but Florida,” she said.
The loss of her parents had the biggest impact on her. “It showed me the value of life and how important people in our lives are,” she said.
Values play a big role in her life; she cites integrity, a sense of humor, and honesty as some of the most important. She follows them each and every day, along with her passion for maintaining close friendships, traveling, and following sports. On game days, you’ll find Ms. Keenan cheering for the Red Sox and Celtics.
We’ve all got a bucket list of our own but if you were to ask her, she’d tell you, “I’d love to travel to Ireland, France, England, Austria, Germany, and the Caribbean Islands.”
What Ms. Keenan likes most about herself is that she is able to not let things bother her or get to her; she’s an optimistic woman and she sees the glass as half full.
“I only get mad when it’s really necessary or appropriate but overall I’m a happy person.” What makes her the happiest is her husband Jack to whom she’s been married to for over 20 years.
When asked what she likes most about working at the ARHS office she said she likes having Jane around to always make her laugh.
Besides getting to spend a day full of laughter with Jane, she loves making students laugh and being around young teenagers full of life. “The hardest part of the job is meeting deadlines and not having enough time to complete all the various tasks that come along with the job,” she said.
Jane Fitzgerald, Ms. Keenan’s partner in crime, is also from an Irish family. Her name means “precious gift.” What she loves doing most when she’s not cracking up Ms. Keenan in the office or working hard is reading, outdoor activities, and most of all, enjoying a nice day at the beach.
Ms. Fitzgerald’s family of brothers and sisters, love to get together. She said, “We’re a huge crazy family; all we do is talk, talk, talk, and laugh, laugh, laugh.” She is closest to her sister Mick who lives farthest away in Worcester, Mass.
Together, she and all her siblings grew up in Springfield. Fitzgerald now lives in Longmeadow, her husband’s hometown.
One item on her bucket list is to go to Disney World again and to get the chance to enjoy it with her grandkids. Along with this dream of hers, she hopes to spend more time in her summer trailer up in Maine with her family when she retires. In the future, she hopes to still be here at ARHS but also to continue taking it easy with her family.
In 1995, her life, her siblings’ lives, and she herself changed due to the loss of their mother. “It was like it woke us all up and made us realize that she had been the one to always bring us together,” she said. She said she admired her because of how well she raised her seven kids after the loss of Jane’s father.
One thing that brings her joy is cultivating the earth. Ms. Fitzgerald’s main passion is gardening and making her garden pretty. “Anything but poinsettias,” she said.
Some things she would like to accomplish include getting a cool new car and spending a lot more time with her family.
When asked what she likes most about herself, she laughed and bobbed her curls, “My curly hair!” she said. “And that I’m always laughing and smiling, and I’m always having a good day. I know better than to answer with attitude.”
What makes her happiest? “My husband Michael,” she smiled.
Ms. Fitzgerald also loves being with her sidekick Pat.
“I wouldn’t be able to get the work done without her, and we greet all different students with a smile on our faces,” she said.
Along with this, they both love that they have created a safe haven where teachers and staff can come to laugh, relax, and revel in their cheerful energy.