One of a weekly summer series of stories about the people who make summer come to the South Shore. This week: The playmakers. Last week: The Sausage Guy.
QUINCY – Sue Pacetti and Stacey Roche were once like all the other young people in Quincy.
Roche, a native of Montclair, spent his summer days playing at Quincy Recreation Camps before taking a summer job in high school as a lifeguard and swim instructor. Pacetti, of Houghs Neck, competed in archery, softball and golf championships during her time as a camper before signing up to become a tennis specialist in college.
For many, it ends there. But for Pacetti and Roche – now director of the summer program and director of aquatics respectively – it was a way of life.
âI can’t say enough about them,â said Michelle Hanly, director of recreation for Quincy. “They are the backbone of this department.”
Roche and Pacetti are probably the longest-serving pair of part-time workers in the recreation department, said Hanly, who herself was once overseen by Pacetti as a summer counselor.
Both women have full-time, year-round jobs – Roche is a teacher and Pacetti works for Stop & Shop – but when the sun goes down they return to Quincy’s Recreation Department for kids of all ages to have fun. in summer. Together they worked 72 summers combined.
âThere are children that I have had, and now I have their children,â Pacetti said. “It’s incredible.”
Roche and Pacetti have an obvious passion for what they do, and they’ve seen a thing or two in their decades by the pool and on the playground. But, ultimately, they say little has changed. .
These days, Pacetti mainly offers the recreation department’s play program for children aged 6 to 16. The program takes place at the city’s 18 playgrounds from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and is free and flexible – parents can drop off and pick up their children at any time for a day of sports, arts and crafts, archery games and more with high school counselors.
âThe program is so good,â she said. âI love working with kids and leaders, and I love planning for them. A lot of these kids are the only programs or camps they’ll have all summer. It’s so much fun.â
After: The Sausage Guy: Famous for his chariot outside Fenway, Hingham’s David Littlefield is a hit
After: The Protector: Marshfield Harbormaster Mike DiMeo helps keep summer safe
The play program is probably the most traditional camp offering in the department. A lot has changed for kids today, said Pacetti – everyone has a smartphone, for example – but she said campers in 2021 enjoyed the same things campers did in 1999.
âThe games are so real and dear to their hearts – we will always play kickball and knockout and generation after generation they love them,â she said. “Summer after summer, they love Popsicle friendship bracelets and stick frames. Without them, it wouldn’t be summer.”
Pacetti also hosts a handful of summer sports tournaments, oversees canoe camps, and plans trips to places such as Water Wiz in Carver and the Franklin Park Zoo in Dorchester.
“We try to keep them busy all day, every day in the summer,” she said.
Roche knows what it is. For at least six hours a day, she oversees an almost constant series of swimming lessons for children of all ages. From those who have never dipped a toe in the water to those preparing to become a lifeguard themselves, it’s the non-stop action at the Southwest Quincy Recreational Pool.
âIt’s a great way to get out, exercise and learn to swim,â Roche said of the classes, which are open to children aged 6 to 18.
On a recent weekday morning, she looked at the pool and interviewed dozens of swimmers and instructors. She reminded one student, a 6-year-old boy, not to run by the pool, then laughed as she strode from side to side of the gym. An instructor waved at him before doing a cannonball in the pool and splashing a beginner’s class as they sat by the edge, causing them all to burst out laughing.
The swimming lessons themselves haven’t changed much in his 35-year history, Roche said, but lifeguard training and rescue protocols have updated a bit. Roche said she hears every year from parents and children who couldn’t swim at all before coming to the department, and then walked away with a love of the water and a safe way to play.
âI love that we teach the kids to swim. It’s so important that they learn in case they’re in the water, God forbid something happens,â she said. “And I love working with the people I work with. It’s great to come back every year.”
Now that she runs the aquatic program, Roche is the one who interviews and hires young instructors and lifeguards who, like her, love being in the water with the kids. Every person she interviews could, one day, find herself with the passion that she has for herself.
âThe kids who come here to be interviewed for a job all say the same thing: ‘We grew up with these programs and want to give back to make summer magical for another child,â Roche said.
âAnd that’s exactly what Sue and Stacey did,â Hanly added.
Pacetti and Roche may be unique in their longevity in the department, but they say they’re not the only ones for whom it holds a special place in their hearts.
âMost summer jobs bring kids back and forth,â Pacetti said. âBut we’ve had a core group together for 20 years. We’ve had romances, births and weddingsâ¦ It’s a family.â
About this series
This summer, we’re sharing a collection of stories that feature the little-known people of the region who make summer a reality on the South Shore. This “MVPs of Summer” series will appear every Saturday until Labor Day. This is how The Patriot Ledger celebrates the season and salutes our spectacular South Shore. We hope you enjoy the pictures, the words and your summer.
Got an MVP you’d like to see profiled? Send an email to [email protected] with “MVP of the Summer” in the subject line.
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Contact Mary Whitfill at [email protected]