Nikki DiNapoli, head of These Our Treasures, has lost her “right hand”.
It’s a figurative expression for Dianne Bradford, a beloved program director for TOTS who retired on Friday, June 22.
Bradford was the special guest for a fitting sendoff at the Bruckner Boulevard center where current and former staff members stopped by to pay tribute to Bradford, who’s been with TOTS for the past 27 years.
“I’ve always been on the other side of goodbye parties until now,” joked Bradford, a woman with a warm smile.
Many know TOTS as the child development center that specializes in teaching kids how to cope with their conditions.
But Bradford saw it as a passion blending into her core.
The Throgs Neck-based center first welcomed Bradford in 1985 as a social worker. Bradford eventually rose to program director, serving kids with developmental conditions.
The job rewarded Bradford in several ways, mainly seeing kids overcome the disabilities they are born with.
“It never felt like just a job,” she said, adding her staff “cries their way through graduations” after witnessing their progress.
But like all good things, Bradford knew an ending would come sometime. She and her husband Lou saw 2010 as the right time to plan their golden years.
“We’re looking for a simpler life,” she said.
But her departure doesn’t come with several voices hoping she’d stay. The loudest being DiNapoli, who continuously fought back tears every time the word “retirement” and “Bradford” were uttered in the same sentence.
“I’m happy that she’ll retire and enjoy what she loves to do, but I’m losing my partner,” said DiNapoli, who’s worked with Bradford for nearly 23 years. “She is a kind, warm, compassionate person.”
Staff member Patricia Franzem agreed.
“It is a loss to the organization because she’s given a lot to the children,” she said.
“She always steps back and thinks logically before reacting,” added staffer Meryl Kantrowitz.
Stephanie Massaro, a former intern at TOTS, claimed Bradford started her life. She now works in the field.
Bradford’s new life awaits in Maine where she plans to pen the novel she always wanted to write now that the book on TOTS has been written.
Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383 or [email protected].
David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at (718) 742-3383