YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Local schools will look and feel a bit unfamiliar this year, perhaps none more so than Crompond Intermediate, where the threat of COVID-19 has resulted in the “early” retirement of a school staple.

Virginia Milano, 93 years old, is saying goodbye to the fourth- and fifth-grade school after working various jobs there for 43 years, most recently as a teacher’s assistant. She had hoped to retire at 99.

“To tell you the truth, I would have never retired, only because of what’s going on,” Milano said. “I’ve been home seven months and I can’t see going back, but I would have loved to go back because I loved the teachers. They treated me beautifully. It was a beautiful place to work for. Our principal’s a doll. The children are lovely. The whole place.”

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Friends and family surprised Milano with a send-off on Wednesday, Sept. 2. A cavalcade of cars filled with former students, escorted by a Yorktown police officer, started at Crompond and slowly drove by her home on nearby Hedge Street. The surprise celebration caught Milano off-guard.

“It was a big surprise today,” Milano said. “I really, really was touched. I usually do this for other people.”

Milano started at Crompond in 1977 working in the cafeteria for $1.64 an hour. She is known by many former students for her common sayings, such as “Excuse me!” and “1, 2…don’t make me say 3.”

“I wore many hats,” she said. “I tried to help teachers do their work. I really was an all-around person.”

Milano, who often got to school early to make coffee and lay out different treats, said she will miss the routine of her job.

“I’ll miss the friendliness, getting up every morning at 6 and leaving at 7:15 and going in and saying hello to everybody,” Milano said. “The teachers would come in my room every morning and they look at me and they would say, ‘Virginia, I’m so happy, because you’re always smiling every day.’ ”

With uncertainty clouding the school year and remote learning becoming the norm, Milano reluctantly walked away from her home-away-from-home.

“I would have loved to stay,” Milano said. “I was looking forward to it, but my children felt that I’ve been home so long and we don’t know what’s happening in the school business now. I did want to work to 99. As long as I could produce, which they think I did, and they were happy.

“Remote is all very strange to me, anyway,” she concluded. “I wouldn’t know what to do with it. I’d have to start like the children did.”