GOFFSTOWN — Thirty-four years ago Jeannine Laroche became the nurse at Bartlett Elementary School. Now that she's leaving, she'll have more time to dedicate to the charity work and family time that have made her one of Goffstown's most beloved residents.
Born in 1940, Laroche has led a life of giving — behavior that is very common in her profession.
“Definitely,” Laroche said, surrounded by friends and family at a retirement party Tuesday night. “In the nursing profession you're there to mainly help people, to promote wellness. And wellness means not just health but it means a whole family.”
Laroche said as a nurse she has always been aware of families that are struggling. And when you can help, she said it's time to step right up to the plate.
Graduating from nursing school in 1961, Laroche worked at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester before taking the job at Bartlett.
“I was leaving the hospital because I knew I needed to be home with my children,” she said.
Laroche's husband, owner of Liberty Press in Goffstown, knew the principal at Bartlett, who said his nurse was retiring. “So they hired me and that was it,” she said.
But Laroche had no idea she'd be at the same job for more than three decades. “It was totally foreign to me because I'd been at the hospital environment for years before that.”
Bartlett Principal David Bousquet was one of the many attendees at Laroche's party. “It's going to be hard for everybody,” he said. “She's the most dedicated, wonderful person you'd ever meet. Everybody loved her, and it's going to be very difficult to see her go.”
Laroche has always been involved in community work. She volunteered with Goffstown Network and did bell ringing for the Salvation Army at Christmas time. She was also active in Toys for Tots.
“We just had big Christmas programs where we'd buy toys for people in need,” she said. “I was privy to information of people who were needy, so we just organized. People would help me and we'd get gifts for families in the area.”
In 2004 Laroche was named the Citizen of the Year by the Goffstown Rotary Club, one of the group's highest honors. In spite of all the praise, she is reluctant to tout her own achievements. But the 70 some-odd people who turned out to her going away party were testament enough.
“Unbelievable,” she said, casting a glance over the crowd. “I thought it was just going to be a small school function.
“I know why they came. It's because they care about me and I equally care about them,” she said.
Laroche's son Steven is a firefighter in Manchester. “She's just done so many things,” he said.
Her other son Kevin is a Goffstown police officer. “She is a saint reincarnate,” he said. “It's amazing that she's spent more than 40 years in nursing, and has cared for so many people over that time, yet when it comes time to care for her she's basically self-sufficient.”
He said his mom had a serious back injury last year that put her out of work, but she wanted to retire on her own terms. “She was so determined that that was not going to be the end of her career, that after her surgery she defied all odds.”
“She's the most giving person you could ever want, and the most unassuming.”
During retirement Laroche said she hopes to keep her nursing license and substitute at the school. She will also stay involved in community work and spend more time with her four grandchildren.