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Margaret Cecere, who helped guide Carle Place schools through cuts in '80s, dies at 70

Margaret Cecere, a onetime Carle Place school board

Margaret Cecere, a onetime Carle Place school board trustee and later president, died Oct. 4, 2014. She was 70. Photo Credit: Handout

Margaret Cecere, a onetime Carle Place school board trustee and later president who helped resuscitate the district from a year of painful budgetary austerity in the late 1980s, died Oct. 4. She was 70.

The cause of death was lung cancer, said her son Michael J. Cecere III of Baldwin. She died at her Westbury home.

The 1987 start of what would be Cecere's two terms on Carle Place's five-member board was anything but tranquil: within a year or so, it was one of eight Long Island districts whose voters, swept up by anti-spending fever, rejected a proposed budget, plunging the district into austerity, Cecere's former colleagues recalled Saturday.

Austerity -- in which spending is cut to the bare bones -- all but eliminated the district's purchasing, bus transportation, athletics programs, building improvements and more.

The U.S. economy was faltering, senior citizens on fixed incomes were scared and taxpayers complained the district had too many administrators, her colleagues recalled. Cecere was on the board as members listened to taxpayers' concerns and helped pare down the next budget so voters would say yes.

"She helped to set a very conciliatory tone on the board to try to help heal the community," said Barry Dennis, the board's current president.

She was also a trailblazer: a woman on a board long male-dominated, said fellow board member Barbara Twomey.

"It's important to have some women represented on these boards," she said. "You get a different perspective when you look at things through the eyes of a woman and a mother."

Margaret Veronica Aalbue, who went by Marge, was born July 14, 1944, in Brooklyn to the former Marie Hoearey, a City Hall secretary, and Edward Aalbue, who worked at the Navy Yard. She was baptized at St. Ephrem's Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn, where she also attended school and was later married, in 1963, to Michael J. Cecere Jr., who survives her. They met through mutual friends.

The family lived on 10th Avenue in Brooklyn's Dyker Heights until 1980, when the couple bought the Kelly Funeral Home in Carle Place and moved to Westbury.

She also is survived by son Paul Cecere of Smithtown; two daughters, Maria Cecere of Yardley, Pennsylvania, and Christine Imrie of Westbury; two brothers, Edward Aalbue of Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania, and Raymond Aalbue of Brooklyn; nine grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Another brother, Richard, died in 2012.

She was entombed at Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury after a funeral Mass Oct. 8 at Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church in Carle Place -- where she had been the first director of religious education when the parish was newly formed.

"The God that she was brought up with -- the Catholic teaching I think in the '50s was more of a punishing, guilt-ridden type of thing," her son Michael said. "She really wanted to impart upon us that God was not about that. God was about mercy and love and forgiveness."

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