If DeLillo-Storey is right and the second most important gift in life is education, then lifelong educator Gloria Talarico certainly has earned her superhero status.
She will tell you that she was a wife and mother first, of her three careers. Her second career was with the Canton School Employees Federal Credit Union, where she worked her way up over 31 years, first as a teller with a two-year degree in accounting, and finally as manager.
“I run into people now and they say, ‘You gave me my first car,’ and I say, ‘No, I just worked at the credit union,’ ” Talarico said.
She studied at Walsh and finished at Malone University, finally receiving her teaching degree in 1987, at age 53.
“It took me 11 years to get my four-year degree. I thought, I can do this. I can go to school and teach banking and finance and science and math.”
She began teaching just that at Stark State College, and she retired from the credit union in 1994 to continue her third career, teaching, in earnest.
In truth, teaching has been a part of her calling all along. And in the 20 years since her “retirement,” she has tutored and helped hundreds of local residents of all ages.
She currently teaches math and science for the Ohio Graduation Test preparation and serves as a state examiner for GED testing.
She volunteers as a tutor of schoolchildren at Mason Elementary, as well as teaching a “Wit and Wisdom” class to seniors at the Canton Christian Home, where she has residents as old as 102 answering her math problems and funny yet educational questions, keeping them sharp.
Other volunteer education roles include teaching “Tips for Parents,” a math and reading program on Channel 11 that prepares stay-athome parents according to the state standards, in collaboration with the Mathematics Learning Center, Stark County District Library and instructional coaches from Canton City Schools.
And at 79 years old, she’s not done yet. You’ll often find her at the library, helping residents who are coming back for their degrees by tutoring them.
Every Thursday, you’ll find her at the Basilica of St. John the Baptist in downtown Canton for the Samaritan’s Table. Here she runs the mayor’s resource table, handing out books, reading glasses, bus passes, gloves, hats, toys and toiletries for adults and children. More than 500 people are served meals at the Samaritan’s Table weekly, and Talarico helps them to fill out applications and resumes, and offers her time to help them understand forms and information of all kinds.
“Many are hungry for socialization as well as food. I started by serving dinners, but then realized I can help them in another way. I have written small grants for reading glasses. You see, some cannot read, but many others cannot see to read.”
Talarico credits her mentor, Thelma Slater — whom she reveres as Canton’s “grandma of literacy” and who passed away late last year at 92 — for getting her involved with the Mayor’s Literacy Commission and One Book, One Community.
“She got me on board right away, got me to go out and be with people. I was all over town, serving in the adult education program, meeting unmet needs in literacy for all walks of life.”
For 26 years, she has served on the Mayor’s Literacy Commission of Canton, working to improve literacy in our community by advocating for public and private support of literacy initiatives. She also moderates the annual round-table discussion each year for the One Book, One Community event.
In May 2011, Talarico lost her daughter, lifelong educator Dianne Talarico, who was the first female superintendent of Canton City Schools.
I lost my right arm when I lost my daughter Dianne. She had no children of her own, but tutored thousands of them. My daughter wanted to help the downtrodden and average student. So what I do in the community, I do not do to be recognized, but to serve others and fill my life, too.”
She founded the Dianne Talarico Education Scholarship Association, which provides merit-based scholarships to Canton City Schools students and hosts yearly fundraisers to support its work. Talarico reads essays from January through July for seven scholarships, including Sons of Italy, Quota International speech- and hearing- impaired scholarships and the scholarship committee for Walsh University.
With three careers and a lifetime of learning and teaching, Talarico thinks of retirement as a mindset.
Just because I’m old doesn’t mean I can go from busy to sitting. I like to be busy. After I lost my husband, I buried myself in work. I’m too busy to know that I’m lonesome. Nobody is going to knock on your door and offer to make you happy.”
Superhero. The word has no equal in the English language when it comes to precisely pinpointing the confluence of hope and action.
It’s a word most often applied to pop culture goliaths—those larger than life crusaders that have entertained us for decades on the screen, page and now, even on Broadway’s stage. And here locally in the Hall of Fame City and City of Champions, it is difficult not to idolize our gridiron heroes.
We root for the good guys, and at the root of that rooting is hope.
For this issue, it was my great privilege to sit down with six local superheroes. No capes, no tights—just honest, unassuming, real-life superheroes—men and women who are saving lives and rescuing our residents. Men and women who give us hope.
If writing this story has taught me anything, it’s that superheroes are among us. I think you’ll agree—unmasking these six is proof enough.
And there are more out there. Superheroes are not fictional characters with too good-to-be-true powers. Their powers are true and good and very, very real.
Their powers give us hope.