Love of reading, passion for education continue to honor late Fairley principal’s memory

Rosemary Occhino is flanked by Fairley students Taylor Earle (left) and Tristan Demunn as they browse the book selection in “Dr. O’s Corner” of the school library.

HANNIBAL — It has been more than 13 years since longtime Fairley Elementary Principal Dr. Joseph Occhino died, but his legacy lives on inside the walls of the school’s library.

A dedicated nook, referred to as “Dr. O’s Corner,” provides students with a comfy reading environment and a plethora of books donated by Rosemary Occhino, the late principal’s widow. Books of all reading abilities and all topics line the bookshelves alongside photos of Dr. O, whose passion for reading can be felt upon entering the reading nook.

“This is such a positive endeavor,” Rosemary said. “If a child can’t read, how can they function? This helps promote literacy and endorses what we believe in as educators.”

Each year since Dr. O’s passing in 2008, Rosemary has donated six copies of a book of her choosing to the Fairley Library. The selections vary, but typically have an overarching theme of kindness, compassion, friendship and respect, which were traits Dr. O tried to emulate in daily life.

“My husband was a positive person and started the ‘happy day’ tradition at Fairley,” Rosemary said. “The purpose of that was to provide an opportunity for people to express their appreciation to others within the school community. We try to keep that sense of appreciation and positivity going in the books we select.”

This year’s selection, titled “Just Feel,” aims to help students stay positive while navigating their social and emotional health. It addresses a range of topics from responsibility to self-knowledge. Next year’s book is part of the same series, which encourages students to find ways to connect with others and themselves.

“I’m so excited to do this every year,” Rosemary said. “As long as I’m breathing, I’m going to do it!”

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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