When I started high school in 1967, the principal was a no-nonsense woman named Eugenia DeFazio. Mrs. DeFazio, as we all called her, had already been the principal for 7 years at that point. I think she knew every last student who walked the Dunmore High School hallways until the day she retired at age 67. She had high standards and she enforced them. I admired that, and I admired her.

Back then, I figured it must have been rare for a woman to be a high school principal, but I didn’t realize how rare until I read her obituary this past week. When she was appointed principal, it said, she was “one of the few female educators in the country to hold that position.” She had a long list of other achievements, too.

Even though we called her “Mrs.”, I think Eugenia DeFazio counts as a single role model. When I first met her in 1967, she had already been widowed for 17 years, and would remain single until the day she died at age 98. I don’t know how long she was married, but it had to have been a whole lot less time than the 48 years that she stayed single after she was widowed.

Her obituary includes a detailed recounting her many accomplishments. None of those made the first paragraph. That opener included just two sentences – one stating that she had died, and the other that she was a widow whose husband had died in 1950.

I suppose that is just a custom of obituary writing, but it rubbed me the wrong way. To me, the point of most significance in her amazing life was surely not the fact that she was once married.

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