By Judy O’Gorman Alvarez
RED BANK – Mary Boynton has been delivering hugs to children for three decades years.
At nearly 84, Boynton, a familiar face around Monmouth Day Care Center, officially retired last week after 30 years. “I cannot believe it has been that long,” she said. “It feels like just yesterday.”
For many of those years, she also worked evenings as a security guard for AT&T.
Boynton, who has raised her four children and two grandchildren, always has been caring for children.
She learned about the Monmouth Day Care Center when her daughter, who was 13 at the time, started working there part-time. “I didn’t even know it was right here,” said Boynton, a Red Bank resident, of the day care center.
As an aide at the day care center, Boynton acted as a floater, moving from room to room where she was needed. It’s something she always enjoyed, because she got to know and interact with all the children – from the littlest babies to the school-age kids who came after school. (The center now serves children from 2 months to 5 years old.) “I go where I’m needed,” Boynton said.
Boynton has no favorite group. “I love working with them all,” she said. Although she does admit to a partiality to working with children with special needs.
In the center’s early years, before public school districts added special education, Monmouth Day Care Center served children with special needs.
“You need to help them more,” she said. “But, no matter what they’d do, they’d give you love.”
Originally from North Carolina, Boynton settled in Red Bank about 60 years ago. The matriarch of her family, her children now live in various cities, although two still live in the area. Her house is still often full with children and grandchildren.
With more time on her hands in retirement, Boynton looks forward to getting more involved with her church, Pilgrim Baptist in Red Bank, and visiting her family, such as her daughter – the same one who first introduced her to Monmouth Day Care Center 30 years ago – who now lives in Virginia.
For years Boynton worked evenings as a security guard at AT&T and was promoted to sergeant. Along with the kudos, pride and increased salary, Boynton grew less stimulated. “I sat at a desk,” she said. She wanted to do more.
For a short while she worked at an afterschool community center, making snacks and ferrying children in the center’s van. When the job at Monmouth Day Care Center came up, Boynton was interested. If there was one thing she knew well, it was raising children.
Affectionately known as “Miss Mary,” she quickly became a beloved figure to children, teachers and parents alike. For many years, she continued to work as a security guard at night and with the children by day.
With an easy nature and tons of patience – and known for her eclectic collection of hats – Boynton grew to know everyone at the center. “I know how much I give and I enjoy it,” she said. “And they (the children) give back.”
She has honest words of advice about raising children: “Just give them love. When they see you and they give you a big hug – that’s the rewards.”
Over the years, Boynton has witnessed how much children have changed, from their choice of toys to TV shows to technology, and especially their dexterity with computers. “They’re smarter nowadays,” Boynton said. “They’re exposed to so many things.”
But in some ways, youngsters are the same in any era. “Children like to sing and dance,” she said.
“The Wheels on the Bus,” she says, is an all-time favorite. “And they learn fast. They love books. I can tell by their expression whether they like it or not in the first few seconds.”
All books are popular, from Dr. Seuss to the latest children’s titles. Boynton’s favorite is “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch, about the circle of life.
The Borough of Red Bank will honor Boynton with a Resolution for her years of service at its Wednesday, Feb. 12 meeting.
“Mary has always been extremely helpful and respectful and with a work ethic and commitment that goes beyond what you find in most people,” said Heidi Zaentz, director of Monmouth Day Care Center.
Boynton smiles modestly. “I try my best,” she said.
The hugs, she agreed, are a bonus.