My name is Heather Strano, and I was the PTA president at P.S. 121 for 5 years before Mr. Roberto died. My son Keith had him for his teacher and was in 8th grade ready to graduate when Mr. Roberto died. My son, like so many others in the school (Keith knew Mr. Roberto from when he was in Pre-k) was so greatly devastated when he died.
I think all of us including the kids thought that Mr. Roberto was young, and strong, and that he would beat his illness. I will never forget the day when Mrs. Catalano called me in to her office to tell me the news. The school was in a state of silence that day and the days to follow. We had to then tell the kids. I knew the 8th grade class that my son was in would be the ones to take it the hardest, because at that time they were the closest to him, and the kids that could actually enjoy his personality, and his humor. (LOL)
I will never forget the looks on the children’s faces, and how they all clung to each other at that very moment. I know kids these days don’t have much respect, but I have to tell you, these kids were deeply moved by this loss. My son was silent in our home for weeks. We were all heartbroken.
We raised money, and even fought with the higher ups to make sure that we had a place to honor him, and thus that plaque was made in his honor. On graduation day, which was months later, was the hardest graduation I had attended. It was hard to do it without him. The yearbook was dedicated to him, and a tribute was done at the graduation. My son received the first Mr. John Rocco Roberto award. He could not speak 2 words. He was very sad along with all of the other children.
I had many moments with Mr. Roberto. We had lots of fun. We were always exchanging jokes, and talking on the in house phone. He was a great man, and the PTA moms enjoyed speaking to him, and being involved with his classes. I also had many private conversations with him when he was sick, and frail, when he came for visits when he could. I will never forget those conversations. They were special to me. When I do pass the school (my children no longer attend) I always stop by his memorial and say a few words to him and sometimes jokes. For some reason today he was heavily on my mind.
I wanted to tell someone how much he is remembered and how much he meant to the kids, and how much it sucks that he is gone.
He is not forgotten.