"Her office always looked like she was waiting for the House & Garden photographer," said Edelen, a special educator at Sandy Hook Elementary until 1999 who worked with Sherlach on the school's child study team. "You go into some offices and they're piled high with papers and unfinished business. I don't think there was any unfinished business in Mary's life."
Not at the end of the school day, perhaps, but of course, there was unfinished business. There were books to read, and plays to watch, and lazy days to spend at the family's home in the Finger Lakes, and another daughter to see married, and one day, grandchildren to be delighted by.
Sherlach and her husband, a financial consultant, had been married 31 years — most of their lives. Their older daughter Maura, 28, sang in school plays and is now married and teaching music at a high school in New Jersey. Katy, 25, a top student at Trumbull High, is working toward a Ph.D. in chemistry at Georgetown University.
"The saddest thing to me, as a mother and now a grandmother of two children, is the fact that she'll never see her daughter Katy get married, and never have grandchildren coming over," Pruzinsky said. "That breaks my heart because I know she would have absolutely loved that."
Sherlach was busy during the school year, but with summers free, she would catch up on reading, lounging on the wicker couch on the porch with her nose in dozens of books — mysteries and epic family tales and novels set in Ireland. She was also an avid gardener and would spend the warm months tending to flowers and weeding and trimming.
Pruzinsky, who lives directly across the street, is a gardener, too. And she winces at the thought that this coming summer, when she's working in the yard, she won't see her longtime friend across the way.
More than a friend, really. When Pruzinsky went through a divorce a year and a half ago, Sherlach donned her psychologist hat and helped Pruzinsky through it, she said.
"When I called to tell her, she took the time to talk to me. And she talked to me as a psychologist would, I guess. And she got me through it. She was a wonderful psychologist," Pruzinsky said. "She was there for me when I needed her that one time. And she was great. And she made me know that things happen for the best. And she made me know that I did the right thing."
Pruzinsky said she has taken one last life lesson from Sherlach. "You know how you regret things? She had asked: Come on up to the lake house for a couple days in the summer and we'll just sit around and relax," Pruzinsky said. "Why didn't I go? You know: busy. I was painting the house, and I said, 'Oh, next summer I can go.'
"It makes you think. Enjoy everything and enjoy everybody now. Don't say 'I'll do it next year.' That may never come."