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First Day Of Kindergarten Holds Special Meaning For Lyndhurst Family

Francesca Restrepo will follow in several of her family members' footsteps when she begins Kindergarten at Columbus Elementary School in Lyndhurst -- 100 years after her great-grandmother did.
Francesca Restrepo will follow in several of her family members' footsteps when she begins Kindergarten at Columbus Elementary School in Lyndhurst -- 100 years after her great-grandmother did. Photo Credit: Restrepo Family

Tradition. Family values. Longevity.

That's what Columbus Elementary School represents for the Restrepo family of Lyndhurst.

Four generations of the family will have attended the Lake Avenue school come Wednesday, when 5-year-old Francesca Restrepo will start her first day of Kindergarten -- 100 years after her great-grandmother.

"It's something to be said about our town," said Francesca's mom, Liz Restrepo, who also attended Columbus with her husband and Francesca's father, Juan.

Francesca has only met some of her relatives but fully understands that she will be carrying history, memories and heritage.

The Restrepo family's roots run deep in the township, where many family members served as educators and others fell in love.

"The first day of Kindergarten is truly a momentous occasion that has invited a whole new flood of emotions -- nostalgic in many ways," Liz Restrepo said.

"She’s going to be standing on same school ground we all stood on. It's really quite exciting... that we are able to tell our story, one that you don't hear quite as often especially having been in Lyndhurst for so many years."

From left: Liz Restrepo, Francesca Restrepo, Mary Weiss and Susan Coppola.

Restrepo Family

Mary Weiss, Francesca's great-grandmother and her mom's maternal grandmother, was the first in the family to attend Columbus in 1919.

Weiss' daughter and son-in-law -- Susan and Gerry Coppola -- attended Columbus together in the 1950s. Susan's 40-year career as a music teacher began at Lincoln School. She later transferred to Harrison to continue teaching.

Francesca and her maternal grandparents, Gerry and Susan Coppola.

Restrepo Family

Francesca's great great aunt and great great uncle are lifelong employees of Lyndhurst Public Schools. Frank Gagliardi worked as a guidance counselor and Pauline a principal -- they both retired in the early 1980s.

Her great aunt Cetta Gregory was with the district for more than 30 years as an elementary school and special education teacher. Francesca's great uncle Nick Gregory was a guidance counselor in Harrison for 30 years.

Francesca with great aunt Cetta Gregory and great uncle Nick Gregory, her mom's aunt and uncle. Cetta was a teacher in the district for more than 30 years.

Restrepo Family

Francesca's parents Juan and Liz both attended Columbus Elementary School and grew up down the street from each other. It wasn't until high school that they began dating in 2003.

The couple married in 2012 and now live in the same Summit Avenue house that Liz grew up in.

Their 2-year-old son, Joseph, who also may one day attend Columbus, will get to see a glimpse of his family's history when he escorts his big sister to her first day of Kindergarten.

"Change is never easy, but it is almost always good," Liz said. "As we celebrate another year of watching Francesca grow, we want her to know new beginnings are one of life's most treasured gifts.

"We will always be there for our children and want to instill in them the importance of values and principles."

Juan and Liz Restrepo grew up down the street from each other in Lyndhurst. They began dating in 2003 while in high school and now live in Liz's childhood home with their children, Francesca, 5, and Joseph, 2.

Restrepo Family

Good luck Francesca!

Restrepo Family

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