Our Lady of Refuge names new kindergarten center for founding teacher Rosie DeSiato.Appropriately enough for a veteran teacher, Rosie DeSiato’s home on a quiet Long Beach street includes, among its decorations, a few red apples. Approaching the front door, visitors are welcomed by an apple-shaped ceramic door stop. Inside, its 94-year-old occupant reads her daily newspaper as she sips her morning coffee from a big white mug, imprinted with a large apple and the words, “There’s no substitute for a good teacher.”Good? How many teachers have a new facility at their parish school named for them? Such is the case, however, with the new Rosie DeSiato Kindergarten Center at Our Lady of Refuge School, where the honoree was the founding Kindergarten teacher in 1978, served for 20 years, and still keeps tabs on (and in touch with) many of her former students.A number of those students were on hand Sept. 9 at Our Lady of Refuge Church for a special Mass in DeSiato’s honor, with Father Ray Morales, pastor, blessing the new Kindergarten Center. All the attention left the smiling retiree a bit amazed.“It was overwhelming,” said the soft-spoken former teacher about the ceremony. “So many people, so many students and parents that I haven’t seen for many years.“I thought I had left all that behind,” she continued, “so this was a real surprise.”Her former students and associates were happy to participate. “At 94 she is sharp as a tack,” said Janis Krantz, a mother of two former Our Lady of Refuge DeSiato students and a classroom aide for many years. “She is an amazing woman, so religious and the most dedicated teacher on Earth.” Her dedication was evident that day 34 years ago when DeSiato — who had already retired after a full career as a kindergarten teacher in Compton — participated in the re-opening of Confraternity of Christian Doctrine classes at Our Lady of Refuge, where Father Francis Kelly “coaxed” her to open the school’s new kindergarten.That led to an immensely rewarding chapter in her life, one that might seem incongruous to those who wonder how in the world a “retiree” could keep up with hordes of energetic five- and six-year-olds over two decades. But that was never an issue for DeSiato.“You just have to be one of them,” she says simply. Beaming, she adds, “The sparkle in their eyes when they learn something new is something you never forget. There’s a feeling of satisfaction that you’ve really accomplished something.”On many occasions, she was the only person the children could talk to, said DeSiato. There was the time, she recalls, when a student told her she was the only adult who listened to her because she barely saw her parents who were always at work.“I was strict,” she smiles, “with a lot of love behind it.”DeSiato had started her teaching career in her native Mount Rose, Colorado, a rural area where few children attended school. Her first teaching job after graduating from college in the late 1920s was at a country school where she had three students in three different grades. That didn’t matter, though. “Teaching was the dream of my life since I was a child, so I was determined to become a teacher and make my way up,” declares the former Rosie Tornatore, the oldest of three children, who was “raised with rules and regulations. "Mom left to work and left me in charge of my brother and sister with orders to do this and this and it had to be done by the time she got back. No quibblings.”Instilled with the principles of hard work at home, it was no problem for young Rosie, once she left home to attend college, to work at nights cleaning the dormitories to help pay her tuition. Eventually, her drive brought her to Fresno, seeking for better job opportunities. There she married her husband, Dominic DeSiato (now deceased), whom she had met in Colorado (the couple never had their own children). And then came Compton, then Long Beach and Our Lady of Refuge, and happy memories for her and generations of kindergarteners.Her sense of self-discipline, though, remains.“She walks every day around the neighborhood, except when the weather doesn’t permit, she has a healthy diet and she has the discipline,” said Annie Ronquillo, who for the last five years has spent weekdays with her as her caregiver.Her friend Janis Krantz spends Tuesday nights with DeSiato praying the rosary, a tradition they started 14 years ago when one of DeSiato’s Our Lady of Refuge students fell sick with E-coli and was left with permanent brain damage. And every Sunday Krantz brings Communion to the retired teacher.To this day, Krantz marvels at DeSiato’s energy — “very contagious,” said the longtime OLR parishioner. “I worked in the classroom once a week and was exhausted after the day that I had to take a nap to recover. And she kept all the volunteers so busy; I don’t know how she kept up with it all.”Neither did her former students, many of whom brought their own children to the Sept. 9 ceremony. For the guest of honor, their appearance was a sign of affirmation that she had indeed taken the right path in her life.“I can’t complain,” said DeSiato. “I’ve had a good life. It’s been fulfilled.” She smiled. “And when I saw all those people at the church I thought, ‘How could I ever have started all this?’”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/0928/sprosie/{/gallery}