Kerstin Martinka's first grade class at Green Hills School met with their pen pal, 102-year-old Marion Seufert (front, in maroon) and her daughter-in-law Valerie on Friday, December 14, 2018. (Photo by Mandy Coriston).
By Mandy Coriston Green Township - Young hands shot into the air and eager faces awaited answers from 102-year-old Marion Seufert on Friday Dec. 14, as the children in Kerstin Martinka’s first-grade class at Green Hills School met their pen pal for the first time in person. The class was connected to Seufert through the Earth Angels program at Project Self-Sufficiency, which connects young elementary schoolers to older Sussex County residents to promote cross-generational learning. Seufert, who is legally blind, resides in Vernon with her son and her daughter-in-law, Valerie Seufert, who brought her to visit with the students, and who also serves as a penpal, but for a different class. In a strong, clear, voice, Seufert handled questions from the children with grace and humor. “Oh yes, I loved the beach,” she said when asked if she liked swimming. “I was always the first one in the water in the Spring, and the last one out in the Fall.” Seufert and the youngsters found common ground in a love of card games and rainbows. “Did you ever see a double rainbow?” she asked the class. “Aren’t they just lovely?” She noted that the children were lucky to have school buses. “When I began kindergarten, we lived a mile from the school," she said. "There was a trolley that cost five cents, but my father said I had to walk with my brother and sister. One mile there, and one mile home, all to save a nickel!” Born in July of 1916, Seufert lived in Ridgefield Park until 22 years ago when her husband died, and then she retired and moved to Toms River. “I worked as a legal secretary in New York City until I had my children, then when they were grown, I went back to work again," she said. Once everyone had a chance to ask their questions, the class presented her with a stack of handmade Christmas cards and a gift of tea bags. “Oh, delicious! You shouldn't have,” she said. The class will continue to correspond with Seufert, and she’s promised to visit again for a pizza party in the Spring. This is Seufert's second year visiting a class, and it's Valerie Seufert's fifth, participating as a teacher. She felt the extra importance of it this year. “I moved from teaching third grade to teaching first grade, so we’ll be writing our letters as a group effort,” she said. "But the pen pal coordinator that I began working with, Carol Jaccodine, passed away this fall, and I wanted to keep doing this to honor her.”