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Elaine Cambria, retired kindergarten teacher, dies at 78

Aug. 23, 1938 – Feb. 10, 2017

Elaine M. Cambria of the Town of Tonawanda, who taught generations of students at St. John the Baptist Elementary School while raising six children of her own, died at home Feb. 10 of complications arising from ALS. She was 78.

Born Elaine Trupia in Brooklyn, Mrs. Cambria was a graduate of St. Joseph’s High School and St. Joseph’s College, both in Brooklyn, earning a bachelor’s degree in education.

She married John M. Cambria in 1961 and the couple raised their family of two girls and four boys in Tonawanda.

In 1979, she went to work as a teacher at St. John’s and spent the next 37 years there, most as a kindergarten teacher. In an article about her retirement last year in the Ken-Ton Bee, Mrs. Cambria proudly noted that six of her 18 grandchildren attended St. John’s.

In the same article, Principal Cynthia Jacobs called her a “treasure” and said there was no better ambassador for the school than Mrs. Cambria.

“What really amazes me is how she not only readily recalls her students, but will then ask about the siblings or [recount] a specific story that occurred in the classroom,” Jacobs said. “She genuinely liked her work and loved her students.”

Mrs. Cambria’s oldest son, John, said his mother was a believer in the idea that many life lessons are learned in kindergarten which is why she instilled in her students the same work ethic that she demonstrated to her own children.

“To say she will be missed is truly an understatement,” he said.

When the school posted on its Facebook page that Mrs. Cambria had died, it noted that each year she would send her students home for the summer with a poem for their mothers called “When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking,” about the lessons children learn, just by watching.

“She knew these words might help us feel special and appreciated,” the post said. “The truth is that we were all looking and watching and learning from her because her life and the way she lived it was the best possible example of love, strength, kindness, devotion and faith.”

Mrs. Cambria was a member of the Italian American Women’s Club.

Her oldest daughter Jeanne, who was born with Down syndrome, died in 2008.

In addition to her husband of 55 years, she is survived by her daughter Mary Giardina and four sons, John, David, Steven and Michael.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 1085 Englewood Ave.

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