LEE -- More than a decade ago, Norma Maroney suggested the town convert its former elementary school on High Street into housing for the town's older residents.
The director of Lee's Council on Aging broached the idea with Elder Services of Berkshire County, which began a collaboration with the town that would result in the opening of Crossway Village in 2005.
Maroney said local senior citizens needed quality and affordable apartments in order to stay in town and the Berkshires.
"I felt it was important that they should remain close to their families and loved ones," she said.
The project also allowed the town to relocate the Lee Senior Center from its cramped quarters in the town's Airoldi Building to more spacious accommodations at the housing complex.
Gail Rothwell says she isn't surprised the project happened on Maroney's watch, which officially ends Wednesday. Maroney is retiring after 33 years leading the Council on Aging and senior center.
"She's invested in her community and has a strong sense of commitment to Lee," said Rothwell, who's known Maroney for 25 years, and who will be succeeding her at the helm of the Council on Aging.
On Monday, Rothwell was among the current and former town officials, family and friends to gather at Town Hall for a surprise retirement party honoring Maroney.
As the Council on Aging director since July 1979, Maroney has helped senior citizens get a hot meal at the center, stay socially active, access transportation to medical appointments and navigate the complex health insurance system.
"Health insurance issues eventually took up half my time," Maroney said.
Maroney said the Lee Council on Aging serves about 400 senior citizens in Lee and from several surrounding communities.
Maroney was indeed the seniors' go-to person in town, according Patricia Carlino, the chairwoman of the Lee Board of Selectmen.
"She knows who to talk to so people get what they need," said Carlino.
"She did a good job and was well-organized," said Peter Scolforo, Lee's former public works superintendent.
Town Administrator Robert Nason said Maroney is well-known and respected around the state for her advocacy of seniors, especially during these tight fiscal times.
"You do so much with so little -- just like making stone soup," Nason said.
Maroney's longtime friend Peg O'Brien has also enjoyed working as Maroney's receptionist for the past 20 years.
"We get along just great," O'Brien said. "She's the best boss you could ever imagine."
Maroney returned the praise, crediting helpful town officials for her longevity with the Council on Aging.
"I probably wouldn't have stayed as long were it not for the people I worked with," she said.
Maroney said she plans to remain active with the Lee Council on Aging and the town's senior center as a volunteer.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233.