b'important to Rocha. Five years ago, my wife, Patty, had breast cancer, stage four. And the support I received from this district, like get well letters, money for foodit was really unbelievable. And at the time I was pretty much the new kid on the block at Tuscan.Now, he says Patty is okay, though shetakesdailymedication.Andeven though Rocha, now 62, says he had aYour Interior and Exterior Painting Experts few more custodial years left in him, it was his wife that sat him down about a year ago and said, Leonel, lets try to Illustration of Leonel Rocha in jester crown enjoy ourselves. I know you love your by Rob Weiss. job, but you know Im here, so think about it. Thats when he decided to pull hidden in the Atlantic Ocean. back and retirement came into view.Rochas first vivid memory is tak- As for whats next, Rocha says much ing a TWA flight for the first time toof his retirement will be spent at his be-the United States, landing in Bostonloved Cove Beach in Cape May, New because it was the only direct route atJersey, where he has been going since Warranty up to 4 years High Quality Preparation & Painting the time, and piling into a checkeredthe 1980s with his family. Ive been Painting Since 1996 Follow Lead Safety Regulations cab with his family, taking a roughlygoing there for years, Rocha explains. 220-milejourneytoNewark,whereAnditsprettymuchlikeasecond Carpentry and Deck Refinishing Fully Insured and Licensed his fathers uncle had found success. Ifamilydownthere,youknow,and Call for a free estimate cant imagine how much that cab rideno one knows my real name because 973-444-1956 cost, Rocha recalls. I was once nicknamed Maverick, he As a boy, Rocha knew no English.says with a independentpainters.com In middle school in Newark, he had alaugh.translator who was always beside him.Asked She helped me a lot, he says. I wentifhewas to school for four years. I never went toabsorbing high school or college because my dadthemag-said, You know there are seven of us innitudeof the family and youve got to work. l e a v i n g Thatfirstjobputa14-year-oldb e h i n d Rocha alongside his dad at a factoryhisschool making luggage. Rochas dad, a dairyfamily,heA retirement gift for Rocha M A P L E W O O Dfarmer back in the Azores, modeled ap a u s e d ,from Tuscan Elementary. A CULINARY ADVENTURE AWAITS YOUR CHILD work ethic that affects him to this day,Itsgoing WITH he says. A family man, Rochas fatherto hit me, he says finally. It will hit FA L LSE MESTERCLASSES did not know English but he workedme. The thing he will miss the most FORA LLAGES every day. [He] always used to say, Al- is the friendship with the kids and the ways do it right. Because if you dontteachers. That sentiment is echoed by AND do it right, someone will always let youBoryeskne: He talks to everyone and Specializing in classes for middle & high school studentsknow. Youll have to do it again.loves to make people smile. He says ev-to learn the basics of culinary techniques and knife skillsBeing a family man is exceptionallyery day above ground is a good day.under the guidance of professional chefs. Looking back on his ca-reer, he says, I met so many differentparentsandso manydifferentkidsinmy lifetime, I would have done this job, you know, 50 years GO TO KITCHEN TABLE MAPLEWOOD.COMago. Allison Weiss is a former tele-vision news producer and cur-rentcommunicationsexecu-kitchentable.maplewood Kitchen Table Maplewood tive in New York. She lives in Leonel Rocha with his wife, Patty, granddaughterMaplewood with her husband Zooey, and daughter Tara. and son.30/ matters magazine / school 2023'