Shelley Brenner LaFauci, a warmhearted retired elementary school teacher who taught for 31 years in the Rockville Centre district, died unexpectedly of unknown causes on April 20, her family said.
She was 69.
LaFauci was born in Brooklyn and raised in Rockville Centre. She graduated from South Side High School in 1967 and attended Hofstra University, from which she received a bachelor’s degree in 1970 and a master’s degree two years later.
LaFauci then taught second and third grades at three Rockville Centre elementary schools, said her daughter, Kim LaFauci of Long Beach.
LaFauci’s students gravitated to her warmth and kindness and many of them would continue to visit her classroom long after they’d graduated, said her son, Greg LaFauci of Brooklyn.
“To this day, I have friends she taught that still talk about her,” he said. “For a lot of people, she was that one teacher you have in elementary school that you always remember.”
After retiring, his mother moved to Delray Beach, Florida, where she met Larry Levenberg.
The two were neighbors and in 2012 they were introduced by a mutual friend. The couple quickly fell for each other, Levenberg said.
He liked that while others wore shorts and flip-flops, LaFauci always wore elegant dresses. He was awed by her cheerful disposition and ability to make people laugh, he said.
But Levenberg most admired her generosity. LaFauci regularly sent gifts of clothes and books to her granddaughter, Lily LaFauci, and volunteered at a hospice facility, where she would chat with patients to keep them company.
“She wanted to do a good deed every day,” Levenberg said. “That was the kind of person she was. She’d just do little things like walk over to an older person who was hunched over and tell them something that would make them smile.”
Last year, the couple became engaged. LaFauci’s two children were ecstatic.
Kim LaFauci said she was thrilled that after her years of taking care of others, her mother had found someone “who would care for her.”
Shelley LaFauci is also survived by a brother, Steven Brenner of Manhattan.
Her remains were cremated. A 4 p.m. memorial service will be held Sunday at Gutterman’s Funeral Home in Rockville Centre.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.