Valerie Levitan loves her town of Rochester. So much so, she's having a celebration.
"Everyone is invited, we've invited the whole town, the whole valley," daughter Jeanie Levitan said.
There's a good reason for a bash.
"It's my 80th birthday!" Valerie said.
The party is across the street at Pierce Hall. With the help of her grandson and friend, she's ready for the evening.
"Ooh! Let's see the cake!" Valerie said.
She's had a life as rich as the dessert.
"I got married at 18, which in the olden days was pretty young. Still is!" she said.
The Philadelphia native went to the University of Pennsylvania and started teaching at her in-laws' business school when she was still a teenager. Years later and divorced, she moved to Chicago and became an executive director of two women's international service clubs. She's met prime ministers and presidents.
"I'm over here, this is Gerry Ford," she said, showing off a photo.
She even got her doctorate of management at 62.
Then 10 years ago, the city girl did something even more challenging.
Reporter Joe Carroll: You came to the sticks and needed something to do?
Valerie Levitan: Yes.
She wanted to be closer to her daughter's family. But adjusting to a town that had fewer people than the high-rise she left was tough.
"One day she came to my office and she said well, I need a project. I'm not staying home every day and making cookies!" Jeanie said.
Jeanie had an idea: get her mom involved in raising money to fix up Pierce Hall. But that's not all Valerie did.
Joe Carroll: You started a new career at 70.
Valerie Levitan: Yes! Why not!?
She answered an ad for a paraeducator and by the time she retired six years later, she was the curriculum coordinator for all the area schools. It was a great way to meet Vermonters.
Joe Carroll: You're getting a lot of cards, are you hoping there's a little cash inside?
Valerie Levitan: You're right!
All that money will go for her beloved building. Pierce Hall was built in 1916 and they want to have it completed for its hundredth anniversary. Valerie has raised $1.4 million so far.
The Vermont Jazz Ensemble keeps the place hopping. And along with some finger foods, there's something else to feast upon-- heartfelt praise from Valerie.
"Thank you for my talented and beautiful daughter," Valerie said emotionally.
"Once you have a purpose, either a job or activity in the community, then you're home, you're home," Jeanie said.
Welcome home, Valerie, welcome home.
PO Box 4508