She was the volunteer lunch lady who became an author at Sanborn Elementary School many years ago. Jeanette Guerrera’s first book, “The Invisible Elf,” was published in 1972. Sanborn students were thrilled when the woman best known for lining up lunch trays tossed her apron aside and read to them from a book that she wrote.
Joseph Normandy, now deceased, was Sanborn School principal back then and is credited with showing cafeteria worker Guerrera’s literary side.
“She just loved kids,” Joe Guerrera, 91, said of his late wife, to whom he was married for nearly 70 years. “She was at Sanborn for 20 years...Never got a dime, just loved being there.”
Jeanette (Dion) Guerrera died in June 2009. As her husband was going through some of her things last year, he found seven more manuscripts with some memorable stories among the pages.
Jeanette Guerrera planned to publish the books but the publisher went bankrupt. Then, discussions with Universal Studios followed. Her agent opposed animating her book characters so film executives bid goodbye.
“Who knew?” Joe Guerrera laughs, noting that animation is now so popular and a movie have earned some big bucks for the family.
So, the seven manuscripts were tossed aside and life went on at the couple’s Cuba Street home. The couple was busy raising three daughters, Janice Furey and Joyce Anderson, both of Andover; and Jo-Anne Cahill of North Andover.
But last December, the manuscripts emerged again. Her husband remembered one of the last conversations he had with her.
“I remember her saying, ‘please have them published’,” Joe Guerrera said.
A family meeting followed as the typed manuscripts were assembled on the living room floor along with some illustrations done by Jeanette Guerrera. Copy and illustrations were matched while a publisher was sought. Four months later, in April, the seven children’s books arrived at the Cuba Street home.
“I’m just so happy. We did it for her,” this electrician husband lovingly said of his late wife. “It was something she really wanted...she was so good to me.”
Joe Guerrera was a 14-year-old baseball player when he met his future wife on a baseball field in Lawrence. He earned the very first baseball scholarship to Central Catholic High School and is a proud Hall of Fame member at the school.
“I was all set to go to Lawrence High because Central tuition was $79 and we couldn’t afford it. But, I got the scholarship,” Guerrera said.
He and Jeanette married in 1940 and he served in World War II. The war ended, he came home and the couple bought their house on Cuba Street in 1950.
“It was once the Indian Ridge School so there aren’t a lot of bedrooms. But I’m still there,” said Joe Guerrera, who lives independently.
He bought the multi-family house next door in 1977. Daughter Janice Furey lives there with her family.
Joe Guerrera feels a bit better these days as his late wife’s wish has been taken care of.
“I’m just very happy,” he said. “It’s off my bucket list.”
CHILDREN’S BOOKS BY JEANETTE D. GUERRERA
The Lazy Beaver
The Littlest Star
The Christmas Witch
The Dumb-Dumb Angel
The Lonely Dog
The Pot of Gold
The Teen-Age Cats
Published by AuthorHouse Publishing of Indiana, all softcover, $17.99 each, except The Teen-Age Cats, which is $19.99.
You can buy books at authorhouse.com, Amazon.com.