FITCHBURG — The packed house at the Old Armory on Wednesday bore witness to how much the senior center’s longtime executive director, Joan Goodwin, is loved and admired by the community.
Goodwin, who is retiring after 18 years in the role, was surprised at the annual Seniors Civic Days barbecue with quotes from local and state officials.
Among those who made an appearance were Mayor Stephen DiNatale, Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, State Rep. Michael Kushmerek, D-Fitchburg, and Beth Walsh, Director of Constituent Services for Sen. John Cronin, D. -Lunenburg.
Dozens of seniors, current and former city councilors and family members were on hand to pay their respects.
“We always talk about service and community service and Joan has embodied that over the years,” DiNatale said before presenting Goodwin with a citation acknowledging her “years of dedicated service,” which drew a standing ovation from from the large crowd. “There is no place more important to helping members of their community and no one better encapsulates this aspect of who we are as a community and who we are as a city than Joan Goodwin.”
DiNatale said the historic structure that houses the senior center “has never looked better” and which Goodwin has “advocated to the very end.”
“She said, ‘Look around, make sure it’s there for the next generation,'” DiNatale said.
Goodwin had tears in her eyes as she accepted the quotes and her jaw dropped when she saw the rolled up table topped with two large cakes, gift bags, balloons and a sign reading ‘Happy Retirement’.
“Whoever comes after you has some really big shoes to fill,” Walsh said. “The Senate extends its congratulations on 18 years of excellent service.
Evangelidis noted that he was “afraid that he wouldn’t be there for this celebration” and as such presented Goodwin with a citation acknowledging his service when he was at the senior center last month for the month of the Elderly celebration. Older Americans. He joked that the quote was his “get out of jail card” and that he had seen it “on his dashboard”.
“I’m honored to be here, you’re amazing,” he said, presenting Goodwin with a wooden sign that read “Joan’s Cafe,” dedicating the downtown cafe to him in honor of his retirement. “We’ve never done anything like this before.”
Goodwin thanked everyone for coming, saying, “I can’t begin to tell you how important these people are to me. They have been part of my life.
She noted the accomplishments of her time at the senior center of which she is particularly proud, including the ‘shop in the closet’ and praised a long list of names of people who served and worked alongside her during his tenure, including senior center staff and city and state officials. “for all you have done for the senior center over the years” and “all past and present volunteers”.
“You have all truly played a vital role in our day-to-day operations at the senior center,” Goodwin said. “I sincerely thank you. I couldn’t have done it without you.
She thanked former mayors Dan Mylott, who hired her as director, and Mary Whitney, and mentioned Council on Aging Chairman Bill Walsh, saying, “If it weren’t for Bill, the building wouldn’t be where it is today.
Goodwin presented Walsh with a shillelagh and said the Irish cane is traditionally given to “very important people” and “used to settle differences in a courteous manner”, which drew laughter and applause from the crowd.
Goodwin announced that the many buckets of colorful petunias decorating each table at the celebration would be donated to the Fitchburg East Rotary Flower Project and planted in the boxes around town.
“I will always have this place in my heart,” she said before hugging her 90-year-old father, who was there with her husband, daughter and son. “I’ll be back, I’ll be right across the office.”