Office team known as “Sunny” and “Bright” ready to retire together

Jane Fitzgerald (left) shares a laugh with her partner-in-crime, Pat Keenan (right).Photo: Dana Hopkins McGill

The phone is ringing, a line of people are waiting to ask you a question, you’re filling out paperwork, the doorbell is ringing in the background, and you’re signing for a package from Fedex, all while keeping a smile on your face.

To make matters more challenging, you aren’t some mythological creature; you have one mouth, two eyes, two legs, and two arms. You are one person juggling a thousand things.

This sounds like a nightmare, a dream you’d wake up from in a sweat. But for Pat Keenan and Jane Fitzgerald this is a day in the life of an office secretary at ARHS.

Unfortunately for ARHS and fortunately for them, both Ms. Keenan and Ms. Fitzgerald will retire this summer.

For them, the excitement and chaos of running a main office has been miraculously manageable, of course, with the help of a few key things: the laughter that can be heard echoing from the office after Ms. Fitzgerald cracks a joke, the beautiful plants watered and managed by Terry Ominsky, and the positive energy emanating from every individual in the office, including Mark Jackson.

“Mr. Jackson has been really great to work for. He’s kind, he’s funny, and he always remembers National Secretaries Day,” said Ms. Keenan.  

Ms. Keenan has been, what some have referred to as, the “air traffic controller of the high school” for 11 years. Before joining the ARHS community, Ms. Keenan worked at the middle school in the central office in Staff Development Title I for 12 years.

“It’s been so great, but it’s time, time to move on personally,” said Ms. Keenan.

Ms. Keenan has especially enjoyed the theater performances, guest speakers, and social justice movements at the school.

For both Ms. Keenan and Ms. Fitzgerald, the students have kept them young. “The students, you know, [they] keep us current,” said Ms. Keenan.

But most of all, Ms. Keenan will miss her long time coworkers and friends, the laughs they share every day and her partner in crime, Ms. Fitzgerald.

“Jane’s got a way with people. She brings them together into her network,” said Ms. Keenan.

The day Ms. Keenan walks out of the high school doors for the last time will be a sad day for all of the ARHS community. It will be a moment of remembrance for all the happiness and fond memories she has brought to the high school.

A memory that will especially live on was the time Ms. Keenan accidentally answered the PA system instead of the phone and announced over the speaker: “Amherst Regional High School Main Office, Pat Keenan speaking. How may I help you?”

“Some of us are considering going back to therapy as a result of Pat’s retirement,” joked one teacher of ARHS.

In retirement, Ms. Keenan plans on spending more time with family, traveling to the National Parks, and doing volunteer work at the Dakin Animal Shelter.

Ms. Keenan has left a memorable mark on the school and its community. She urges people to live in the moment and to remember nothing is ever set.

“Just remember to step back and take it one moment at a time,” said Ms. Keenan.

With the rigor of the office workload and the stressors they deal with each day, Jane Fitzgerald is the lifeboat in a tumultuous storm.

To be an office secretary you have to be exceptional at customer service, and thus you must be in a good mood or at least a fake one at almost all times.

This is why Jane Fitzgerald is the keystone of the office. She is the most reliable person to cheer everyone up when things get too serious or stressful.

“She is an absolute joy,” said Ms. Keenan, who said Ms. Fitzgerald is always there, whether it’s for work or the personal, lending an ear or offering up a story whenever you most need it.

Ms. Fitzgerald has worked in the school district for 14 years, the last five at ARHS.

She is excited to spend more time with her family, especially her grandkids and to visit her summer trailer up in Maine.

Ms. Fitzgerald is ready to retire, though, if only to put down her role of answering the school doorbell, which seems to ring constantly.

“The doorbell drives you crazy,” laughed Ms. Fitzgerald.

Ms. Fitzgerald will miss all the students and teachers who have greatly affected her and who have also been greatly affected by her.

“It’s the camaraderie you have with the teachers,” she said. “People just come in here and relax, just to get a laugh.”

Ms. Fitzgerald has been a warm and welcoming face for students and teachers each day and there’s no question as to why.

“You gotta like people and if that doesn’t work, say goodbye,” Ms. Fitzgerald advised to anyone thinking of becoming a secretary.  

As the news traveled that Jane Fitzgerald and Pat Keenan were retiring together, there was an uproar from students and teachers across the building.

Students are remorseful that the warm faces of Ms. Fitzgerald and Ms. Keenan, also referred to by the nicknames “Sunny” and “Bright” will no longer be greeting them in the office.

“Are you kidding me? They’re retiring? I’m glad we’re getting out now too, then,” said Catherine Larson, a senior at ARHS.

On behalf of the ARHS community we thank you for all the help, laughs, and love you have given us over the years. We will miss you dearly.