Campus Auxiliary Services worker Antonia “Toni” Gerace approaches her work with an enthusiasm that would be enviable in any profession. Constantly approached by both student and other adult workers for quick conversations and compliments, Gerace’s energy is contagious in the workplace. “I get along with everyone,” she said.
Born in a town south of Seville, Spain, Gerace made the trip to the United States 43 years ago, leaving her entire life and family behind. The reason? Love.
“I guess I fell in love and I came over here,” Gerace said. She could not speak English when she arrived, but learned how to speak by working at a bar. She was moved through the ranks from busgirl to bartender to waitress, and even owned her own bar for a time.
While her work ethic was incredible, the love story did not work out like a fairy tale. “I had a really tough life but now everything is fine,” Gerace said. Gerace does not regret her decision to move here, however. While the weather and food are hugely different between southern Spain and Upstate New York, she explained that she sees some benefits of living in this country.
“Job options are very bad over there and you work hard for less money,” Gerace said. “They’re too behind the times over there.”
She also met her current husband through a babysitting service she utilized as a single mother. They have been married for 37 years and have two children and two grandchildren. Always on the move, when Gerace is not with family or at work she enjoys sewing, painting, crocheting and obviously, cooking.
When it comes to incorporating Spanish cooking into her CAS work, Gerace noted that she “tries her best.” She is currently working on classic paella, but refuses to make it vegetarian because, in her words, “That’s no fun!”
Although it might be surprising to some, Gerace is working at CAS purely by choice. “I could retire and stay at home, but I would rather work and move around … home is boring,” Gerace said. She does not watch much television and does not like the idea of doing repetitive housework all day, so she has been working at Geneseo for the past 17 years.
“You young people keep us old people movin’ and hoppin’,” she said.
Gerace’s friendship with her co-workers is truly remarkable, and she seems to have an inside joke or type of banter with every Mary Jemison employee. “You’ve got to be positive,” she said. “It can’t get worse, it can only get better.”
Her philosophy of positivity extends to her policy of being honest with herself and with others. She understands the shortness of life and truly wants to live to the fullest for as long as she can; “That’s what life is all about, so have a good time,” she said.
If she could spread a message to as many people as possible, she explained that hers would be very simple. “I wish everybody here and in the world would be more friendly,” she said. “That’s the way I am, and I’m not gonna change now. I’m almost 70.”