As we get older, it becomes more and more difficult to remember all of the different people we encounter when we’re young. Even though someone may seem like an important part of your life when you’re a kid, you sometimes find yourself struggling to remember their name as the years go by.
But then there are the people that you’ll never forget for the rest of your life. More often than not, some of the most memorable people from your childhood will be the teachers that left their mark on you. After one woman became that impactful teacher to so many, she wanted to leave them with one final gift…
In the town of Dumont, New Jersey, Mrs. Via Cava was something of a minor celebrity. It’s not hard to figure out why, once you consider that she’d been taught in the Dumont school district for 45 years.
Since the day she started in 1945, Mrs. Via Cava developed quite the reputation. Despite having a somewhat no-nonsense attitude, she was known for being kind and generous, regularly going above and beyond what she had to do to make sure that her students were getting the best education they could…
“She had a very good sense of humor,” said a friend of hers, James Kennedy. “She made kids feel relaxed and was a very approachable as a person.” Her generosity and goodwill for her students were still there long after they’d left her classroom.
Kids And Adults
Because she’d been teaching — both regular and special ed — from 1945 to 1990, plenty of her students had grown to adulthood while she was still in the classroom, educating generation after generation of kids. There were plenty of times over the years where she would help former students, who were now adults, find jobs in the area using her many connections…
Because she’d taught for such a long period of time, she had many of her connections simply because if you’d lived in Dumont your whole life, chances are either you or your kids ended up in her classroom at some point. And Mrs. Via Cava had a memory like the proverbial elephant.
“She had an uncanny memory when it came to her students and could remember things that happened a long time ago,” said James Kennedy, one of her former students who went on to become a principal in Dumont. But her many friends and acquaintances weren’t just former students…
A big chunk of Mrs. Via Cava’s friends and connections came from her willingness to strike up a conversation with anyone, coupled with her great sense of humor. If you happened to run into her one day in town, you might just make a friend for life. But even if you did, it wouldn’t be the closest of friends.
Small Inner Circle
“She didn’t have too many people,” said Richard Jablonski, a friend of hers for over 35 years. “She was a rough-exterior type of a person. But she could light up a room. She had a killer smile.” Mrs. Via Cava never had any children and after her husband died in 1998, her students were her everything. So as she was coming to the end of her life, it wasn’t clear who she was going to leave things to…
Around 2008, Mrs. Via Cava was in her mid-80s and was getting her last will and testament in order. She was speaking with the Dumont School District Superintendent Emanuele Triggiano when she told him that, as part of her will, she would be giving the school district a million dollars.
You Can’t Be Serious
“I thought it was a joke,” Triggiano said. After all, he was a school superintendent. He knew what kind of money teacher’s made and it certainly wasn’t enough to make them millionaires. Then, when Mrs. Genevieve Via Cava passed away in 2011, he was amazed to find out that she’d been 100% serious…
That’s A Lot
But when the check arrived, the laughter turned to amazement. “I was not shocked she would donate something, I was shocked by the number. She was a teacher here, very unassuming, very modest,” Triggiano said. “That’s a large sum of money for anyone.”
The people of the Dumont school system were at a complete loss to understand how the beloved retired teacher had managed to amass such a considerable fortune. But when it came down to it, there was no magic trick to how Mrs. Via Cava had amassed such a huge sum of money…
Mrs. Via Cava had simply spent her life being as frugal as possible. She wore the same few outfits for decades, ate out rarely, and stopped going on vacation after her husband died. When she started losing her hearing later in life, she even refused to get hearing aids.
Saving For A Reason
Her friend Richard had a simple explanation for why she chose to live that way. “The Great Depression really left a mark on her,” he said. “I asked her what she was saving for, since she could afford it and it would change her life for the better.” After her donation became publicly known, it was clear what she was saving for…
“She’s leaving behind a lasting legacy,” Richard said. Her million dollars was left to create a fund that, through its interest, would allow the school to give out a $25,000 scholarship each year to one special education student seeking post-high school education.
“Her name will live on forever in this scholarship fund,” Richard said. “It’s unbelievable that she’s going to have this effect.” In addition to being her friend, he was the executor of her will. He was the one responsible for getting the money to the school district, as well as the other causes Mrs. Via Cava wanted to donate to.
Spread The Love
In addition to the scholarship fund, Mrs. Via Cava wanted to give to help out the needy, both man and animal. To that end, she donated a considerable amount of money to the Salvation Army as well as some of the animal shelters in the area.
But although Mrs. Via Cava would pass away in 2011 at the ripe old age of 89, it would be years before the scholarship was put in place. The legal and financial complexities of setting up the fund required 7 years before the Dumont district was able to make the scholarship she’d dreamt of a reality…
Child Study Team
With all the details in place, the 2019-2020 school year will be the first where one student from the “Child Study Team” in need of financial assistance will be able to continue their education beyond high school.
For decades, the scholarship Mrs. Genevieve Via Cava set up will help family after family achieve their dreams. In death, she will continue helping others just as she had in life. “She was well-known and well-liked, a wonderful woman,” said Superintendent Triggiano. “She loved the kids she taught and the town of Dumont and this was her way of giving back.”