By Nakeem Grant and Robert Traverso
Marguerite “Peg” O’Connor’s 30-plus years as a Malverne Board of Education trustee — 10 as president — ended when she “retired” last year. O’Connor said she had joined the board for one reason: to make a difference.
Last year, she told the Herald that she felt as if she had 1,800 children to take care of. That, she said, motivated her to give her all for them.
O’Connor, 77, died suddenly on Oct. 13. The cause was not disclosed.
O’Connor grew up on Staten Island, and moved to Lynbrook in 1965. She became the secretary to the principal at Hempstead High School, and worked in that district for 22 years. In 1991 she earned a bachelor’s degree in business management and communications from Adelphi University.
She began volunteering in the Malverne School District as a member of the Davison Avenue School PTA in 1970. Attending school board meetings regularly, she hoped to bring positive changes to district students. In 1980, when, she said, she saw no changes were being made, she decided to run for trustee.
O’Connor’s fellow PTA members passed out fliers for her, and she created a petition that was signed by 200 people. She was elected that year, and remained on the board for 20 years, until 2000. She took a four-year break, and then returned in 2004.
“She was known for finding a way to squeeze everything into one budget to ensure funding for the district’s students,” said current board President Danielle Hopkins, who served alongside O’Connor for 13 years. “Her motivation was to do anything possible for the kids.”
Hopkins added that O’Connor never hesitated to share her knowledge with her fellow trustees when she returned. “She was a teacher, and someone I looked up to as a mentor when I joined the board in 2005,” Hopkins said.
The school board observed a moment of silence during its Oct. 15 meeting in honor of O’Connor. Superintendent Dr. James Hunderfund, who acknowledged that he and O’Connor disagreed at times, said that he was a fan of hers.
“She wasn’t afraid to step on any toes,” Hunderfund recalled. “I have the utmost respect for her. She was a strong, wonderful lady, and she will be missed.”
Hunderfund also noted that O’Connor made it her personal mission early on to foster a relationship between the school district and the Lakeview Youth Federation, which organizes community sports organizations for local youth, to ensure “racial harmony.”
“You have to admire people like that,” said Charlie Nanton, a co-founder of the federation. “I’ve never met anyone quite like her. She’s a fighter . . . and she knew that the work was never done with young people.”
O’Connor is survived by three daughters, all of whom graduated from Malverne High School, and nine grandchildren.
This story originally appeared on liherald.com. To view the original, click here. Traverso was a Herald Community Newspapers intern, and Grant, a Hofstra graduate, was his mentor.