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After 37 Years, Ohr Set to Retire from TJ Elementary School

Margaret Ohr, who has been working at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School for 37 years, checks her email at the end of her work day. She is set to retire from Jefferson on Friday, Oct. 30. (Photo: Drew Costley/News-Press)
Margaret Ohr, who has been working at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School for 37 years, checks her email at the end of her work day. She is set to retire from Jefferson on Friday, Oct. 30. (Photo: Drew Costley/News-Press)

Margaret Ohr was working as a crossing guard in the City when she began working at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School as a playground and lunchroom aide in October 1978. This Friday, Oct. 30, Ohr, the longest serving employee at Jefferson, will retire from the school, 37 years after she started.

But although she’s retiring from full-time work at the school, Ohr will be nearby. She lives a short walk away from the school, right around the corner on Sherrow Avenue.

Ohr and her family originally moved to Falls Church in 1972 from Arlington County, from which Ohr and her husband Daniel hail. Margaret is from Westover and Daniel, a retired volunteer firefighter, is from Cherrydale.

The Ohrs moved to the house they live in now after Daniel fought a fire at that house, which was vacant at the time, because they needed space for their growing family.

A few years later Ohr applied for the job at TJ at the suggestion of her husband and her eventual close work associate Mary Warner.

After she was hired, she would do her crossing guard duty in the morning at Madison Elementary and then come to Jefferson to work the lunch and recess shift in the late morning and afternoon.
Since then, she has served several other functions at the school, working as a substitute physical education teacher, administrative support staff, classroom assistant and ad hoc supervisor of classrooms when teachers need someone to cover for them.

When she began working at TJ, Ohr said, the school’s population was much smaller. But it still had its fair share of excitement.

“It was an adventure, let me tell you,” Ohr said. “We had a lot of fun. I worked with Mary and the two of us, we were kind of a team. We worked a long time together and it was fun.”

Warner, who retired from Jefferson in 2009, echoed what Ohr said about their time together at Jefferson. “We had a lot of fun together. We worked in the office and we’d order supplies,” Warner said. “You know, you always have your ups and downs…petty stuff.

“But on the overall we enjoyed each other while we worked together and you know we used to laugh and have fun and we’d go out to eat. We had a lively time.”

David Morales, the head custodian at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, and Margaret Ohr have been working together at Jefferson for over 20 years. The two have a close working relationship. (Photo: Drew Costley/News-Press)
David Morales, the head custodian at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, and Margaret Ohr have been working together at Jefferson for over 20 years. The two have a close working relationship. (Photo: Drew Costley/News-Press)

Warner was not Ohr’s only friend at Jefferson. She’s grown close to the Jefferson’s head custodian, David Morales, in the over 20 years he’s worked at the school.

He spoke to the News-Press about his genial work relationship with Ohr directly after he greeted her with open arms and an affable exchange about their time together at Jefferson.
“We have a great friendship and I really enjoyed working with her,” Morales said. “And I’m going to miss her really, but I’m happy for her.

“After 37 years, that’s a long time. It’s time for her to go the next phase of her life and enjoy her grandchildren and enjoy her life. I’m glad for her.”

Several of the staff and faculty at TJ gathered around Ohr in Jefferson’s main office, voicing their affection for Ohr. “We’re going to miss her,” said Julie Huber, the school’s gym teacher.

Huber, who has a long commute to and from Falls Church for work, said there have been many an evening when she’s called Ohr to talk on the way home. In one instance, Huber was stuck in hellacious traffic after a winter storm came through mid-day and caught students, staff and faculty at school. She called Ohr during that especially long haul, she said, and Ohr stayed on the phone with her.

Ohr said that she is going to miss TJ, especially her work as a lunchroom and playground aide. It’s not quite the same as it used to be – Ohr said she used to know every student’s name when she first started working at TJ but the boom in the enrollment at the school has made that impossible – but she’ll still miss it.

“It will be nice to not have to wake up and be somewhere by a certain time…but I will miss it,” Ohr said. “It’s been part of my life for a long time.”

She told the News-Press that she had not told many Jefferson students about her impending retirement, but that the ones she had told her expressed longing for her before she even left.
“I told a couple of them,” Ohr said. “And they said ‘You mean you’re leaving forever and ever?’”

She’s not quite leaving forever. Ohr said that she’s going to apply to be a substitute teacher at Jefferson as part of her post-retirement plans.

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