Genevieve Via Cava spent 45 years working at the same school. She dedicated her entire life to helping the students there. She had no children of her own. It wasn’t until after her death at the age of 88 that her secret identity finally emerged.
Genevieve Via Cava spent 45 years working as a special education teacher in Dumont, New Jersey. She was known as a no-frills woman who clipped coupons and lived with minimal expenses. She never took vacations and would often wear the same outfit. She had no immediate family.
But Via Cava absolutely loved working with her students, and that’s where she truly shined. Even after she retired in 1990, she would regularly pop back into the school to check on classes, say hello to the children, and chat with the superintendent. While Via Cava had no children, she was described as having a great connection with students. She was even known to help them outside the classroom, befriending their parents and referring them to after-school groups.
“She was very kindhearted, sometimes with a rough exterior, but very compassionate deep down,” said Richard Jablonski, who was a close friend and the executor of Via Cava’s will. “She was very loving and won people over with her beautiful smile.”
It wasn’t until Via Cava passed away at the age of 88 that her friends and co-workers learned the massive secret she had been keeping all those years. The humble teacher had amassed a small fortune throughout her life. When she died, she left her savings to help some of the people who meant the most to her: her special education students.
Superintendent Emanuele Triggiano recalled laughing when La Cava, then retired, told him that she was going to donate a million dollars to the district. “I thought it was a joke,” he said. “But then we got the paperwork.”
La Cava’s substantial financial gift will be invested, allowing for a $25,000 scholarship to go to one special education student per year who is seeking post-high-school education, such as college or a trade school. The money will stay in a fund that will generate interest, allowing the district to continue giving out the scholarships for years to come, said Business Administrator Kevin Cartotto.
During all the time that she was teaching and selflessly caring for students, Via Cava scrimped and saved, denying herself many things. Jablonski thought it was probably a habit she picked up from having endured the Great Depression. When she started to lose her hearing later in life, she even refused to get hearing aids, Jablonski said. “The Great Depression really left a mark on her,” he said. “I asked her what she was saving for, since she could afford it, and it would change her life for the better.”
What she was saving for, it turns out, was to help Dumont students, just as she had done throughout her life. Please share Genevieve Via Cava’s incredible story that it might inspire others to give of themselves so selflessly. She left everything that she had amassed in her lifetime to children, and she never expected any recognition in return. She is a true hero.