By JOHN T. WARD
Over the past 30 years, Mary Boynton has wrapped her arms around hundreds of youngsters at the Monmouth Day Care Center in Red Bank.
But one stands out: Anthony, a special-needs child who arrived at the facility on Drs. James Parker Boulevard as a nine-month-old infant, and stayed until he was 10 years old.
When Anthony left, “I cried and cried,” says Boynton.
Expect some tears to flow this week, when the 84-year-old Boynton wraps up her three decades of service at the center to embark on a life in retirement.
A borough resident for about 60 years, Boynton was working as a security guard at an AT&T facility when she stopped by the day care center, where her daughter had taken a job.
She was so impressed by her daughter’s connection to the kids that she fell in love with the place. The director offered her a job as a classroom assistant, a role she’s held ever since.
Reticent and camera-shy, Boynton is most in her element among the center’s children, who range in age from two months to five years old. Many call her “grandma.”
“She is part of the reason I love going to work every day,” said colleague Shannon Lonergan, of Shrewsbury. “She is always smiling, and truly loves all of the children.”
After being honored at the center’s annual meeting this week, Boynton will say goodbye to her colleagues and students on Friday.
What’s the most important message she’s tried to impart in the kids?
“That they are loved,” she says. “They are loved.”