After a 29-year career in the Riverhead Central School District, a secretary beloved for her giving nature and prayer groups is now planning out her golden years.
Although Julie Lojko, 70, has retired from her clerical post at the Aquebogue Elementary School, the lifelong Riverhead resident intends to keep in touch with her colleagues and visit students, especially around the holidays.
Born in Patchogue, Ms. Lojko’s family moved to Riverhead when she was 4 years old. Before graduating in 1959 from the former Riverhead High School where the Pulaski Street Elementary School is now located, Ms. Lojko said she studied as many business courses as possible, including typing, shorthand, business law and bookkeeping.
Her first jobs included working as a secretary for a rabbi and then for a priest. She later worked in bank, insurance and telephone companies. When she became pregnant with her first child, she left the workforce to raise a family.
“When I left, there were electric typewriters and I came back to computers,” Ms. Lojko said.
After working in the district for nearly 30 years, Ms. Lojko is looking forward to spending more time with her husband, Ed, to whom she’s been married for the past 50 years. The couple has two adult sons, Eddie and Michael, and a granddaughter, Ashley, 13.
We recently sat down with Ms. Lojko to get her perspective on the past and the future. The following was excerpted from our conversation:
Q: How did you start working at the Riverhead School District?
A: I started working as a reading aid in 1984 at the St. John’s School. Then about six months later I accepted a typist position at the Riverhead Middle School. I worked there for 10 years before I moved over to the Aquebogue Elementary School in 1995. The secretary there was leaving and had called me to say she was retiring. I couldn’t decide to move over to Aquebogue or not because I was happy at the middle school. Then my girlfriend wrote me a Christmas card and that read: “Boy, that would be an ideal job for you, Lojko! Get over there!” That’s when I decided to look into it and wrote down the pros and cons. When I went for the interview, there was my computer, printer and all of my stuff. I was pretty sure I had the job.
Q: What was the most rewarding part of your career at the Riverhead School District?
A: I love working with the people there. I thrive over there. And the children. And the parents. Working for the school and the community. Bringing up our future generations. You keep them safe and calm and relaxed. Sometimes they would come in crying because they left their bookbag on the bus or mommy got the lunches mixed up. Like I say, life isn’t all sunshine and roses. I enjoyed it all.
Q: What challenges did you overcome on the job?
A: Gaining confidence again. I guess when you’re home, and we only had one car, I didn’t get out a lot. I did a lot of sewing and crafting things, but you’re not out with the public, so it took me a couple of years to get my confidence going. I’ve met wonderful people in the school that helped me. The minute I got to the middle school in the office, they got us computers. Mac was my first one. I found it very user-friendly. I wasn’t afraid of them because I loved doing spreadsheets. I would do them by hand on my own and found how easily you can do them on Excel. Plus, there was always the computer person so willing to help me.
Q: What will you miss most?
A: We had a few people with cancer or really suffering. We had sons who were in Afghanistan. We had children fighting illness. I had so many dear friends there. Sometimes we would leave a little note on the counter and through word of mouth we would get together for a prayer group in the faculty room. We’d sit in a circle, hold hands, and anybody that wanted to say something, said something. And, of course, we would always have showers for the newly married or having babies. They’re just great people. Not that I hung around them on the weekends all the time, but we were always there for each other.
Q: What are you retirement plans?
A: I started thinking about retiring about three years ago. My husband has been retired for two years. He had a hard time in the beginning. It’s like a loss. It’s life changing. It’s really an adjustment. We’ve been boyfriend/girlfriend since I was 16. You do get away from a lot of the things you used to do. When I worked 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., I didn’t want to go out at night. But now, we can do whatever we want. I made up a schedule. One day we clean. One day we shop. Another we do errands. We’re both very simple. We like to enjoy life. We like to take day trips. We enjoy golf, fishing. We like polka dancing and bowling. Now I hope to get back into those things. When we met, we did all of these things together.