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Working with 'grace'

Longtime town employee prepares to retire at 89 years old

Grace Maxwell spent the last three decades working for the town of DeWitt Parks and Recreation Senior Program. She retires this month, just shy of her 90th birthday. At 89 years old, Maxwell is ready to enjoy the program as a senior rather than one of its leaders.

"I'm not going to retire entirely, because I'm going to attend the center just the same," she said. In fact, she plans to be a volunteer when needed, which is how she began her career in the first place.

In 1970, Maxwell, who was born and raised in Collamer, volunteered to coordinate and direct the senior center, then comprised of about 30 people from areas including Cicero, Mattydale, North Syracuse, Bridgeport and Minoa. The town of DeWitt adopted the program two years later. Eventually, the program merged with another senior outfit, 50-Plus, based in East Syracuse.

"Working for the town senior program for the past 37 years has kept me young at heart," Maxwell said. "You know, staying active is important as we grow older."

Over the years, Maxwell acted as a senior escort for both day trips and overnight stays to various cities, organized visits with guest speakers, and planned crafts, card games and other activities for her group. She said the biggest highlight of her career was "just having the pleasure of being part of their lives."

"Grace is very committed and dedicated to the senior population," said Sue Ferris, director of parks and recreation. "She's inspiring in a lot of ways. You don't get to be 90 and still get to be working and doing the kinds of things she does without being inspiring."

In 2006, Ferris nominated Maxwell for the Senior Services Professional Award presented annually by the Onondaga County Department of Aging and Youth. The former pastor of the Collamer United Church, Rev. Marilyn N. Wolfe, wrote her a letter of recommendation.

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