Many of us seek to better understand how we can be of service to our community. But perhaps the best way to learn is to look to the example of those paragons of selfless action who already walk quietly among us.
Like Susan Torborg, recently honored as a Hometown Hero by the East Rockaway education board.
“I was in shock,” Torborg said. “I don’t look at myself as a hometown hero.”
But others did, like East Rockaway superintendent James DeTomasso.
“Sue has been the face and the voice of the district for many years,” he said of his longtime main office clerk. “She typifies what a rock is. She’s a jack of all trades.”
When she’s not in the office, Torborg has helped out as a lunch monitor, security guard, an athletic supervisor, and even a coach.
But that’s exactly the kind of family Torborg grew up in. A third-generation East Rockaway resident, her German forbears first made it to Brooklyn in the 1920s before reaching across Queens and settling on Long Island.
And now Torborg is a Hometown Hero, an award created by the school board to “recognize community members who best represent East Rockaway with extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions,” according to the district’s website.
Torborg’s win is the first, and was soon followed by Michael Cooney — who has spent a number of hours coaching various teams for the schools — in November.
Torborg’s dutiful attention to her community’s needs did not end when the final school bell rang. She’s been responsible for a number of initiatives, including autism awareness campaigns, food drives, and organizing five class reunions over the years.
In addition, she was part of a two-person team responsible for the 100th anniversary celebration of East Rockaway, even setting up a shop in the village center to proffer East Rockaway merchandise. In a manner one swiftly gets used to in talking with her, Torborg is quick to dispense credit, instead calling each and every one of these initiatives “a team effort.”
In fact, it was high school that taught Torborg how to manage her time. When she was a student there, she played field hockey, softball, volleyball and basketball, yet still found time to be a cheerleader, too.
Perhaps lost, though, in Torborg’s commitment to altruistic enterprise is her penchant for mischief.
“A few principals ago, she filled the principal's office with green-and-red balloons on St. Patrick’s Day,” DeTomasso said. “During springtime, it would be bunny ears. Everyone was always waiting to see what kind of prank she was going to pull.”
After decades of tireless service to East Rockaway schools, Torborg finally retired earlier this year. Or did she?
“She failed at retirement,” DeTomasso said, pointing out that the 69-year-old still often comes into work whenever needed. One gets the feeling that slowing down is the only endeavor to which Torborg — grandmother now of eight — has ever taken a relaxed approach.
“I’m just grateful for the life that I’ve had,” she said, “and the people I’ve met along the way.”