Raising her great-grandson keeps this 90-year-old on her toes

Florence Rotundo is a busy lady. Her calendar is carefully filled with bold strokes of her pen. She has many appointments to keep — routine doctor visits, volunteer duties at Lakewood Elementary and Boy Scout meetings.

Rotundo’s calendar has always been full, but things changed six years ago. Circumstances arose in Rotundo’s family, and a decision needed to be made about where her great-grandson, Sebastian Lackey, would live.

“I was the only one who had space,” says Rotundo, who prefers not to discuss the specifics of how Sebastian came to live with her. “I felt I needed to volunteer. The Lord let me live this long. What else would I be doing, probably sleeping late in the mornings?”

It was settled. She enrolled him in Lakewood Elementary, 50 years after enrolling her daughter and Sebastians’s grandmother, Tonette.

“I did not know that some 50 years later I would be enrolling a great-grandson,” Rotundo says.

She never expected to be back in the PTA, at least not as a 90-year-old, but it makes perfect sense: Rotundo’s life has been about giving back and teaching others. She volunteered at Lakewood Elementary as a mother and grandmother, and she signed up once again when she took in Sebastian. For 14 years, Rotundo was director of the Northridge Child Development Center. She also taught a swim class, Waterworks, at the YWCA from 1987 until 1999.

Rotundo still swims at the President’s Club, which explains why she’s in such good shape. And she needs the energy to keep up with an 8-year-old.

Sebastian is a typical, temperamental third-grader who sometimes gets in trouble for talking too much in class, she says. Rotundo says this “very bright little boy” enjoys reading books, and his best subjects are math and reading.

Getting into the routine of doing homework wasn’t difficult only for Sebastian.

“The homework was hard,” Rotundo says. “Math is so different. He has to teach me.”

Now, most of the math lessons are left up to Sebastian’s mother, Carrie, and Tonette. They visit with Sebastian in the evenings and on weekends.

Sebastian isn’t Rotundo’s only great-grandson. She has five others, one great-granddaughter and great-great-grandson. They help Rotundo stay youthful — “for goodness sakes, of course they do,” she says. And she feels blessed to have Sebastian in her life, especially after her husband, Salvatore, passed away nine years ago.

“He wasn’t here when Sebastian was born,” Rotundo says. “I am so sad about that.”

But grief doesn’t inhibit her desire to give. On many days, you can find her in Lakewood Elementary’s library, where she spends countless hours volunteering each year. Last year, Rotundo was given an “Honorary Life Membership” into the PTA. She thought it was a nice gesture, but for a woman like Rotundo, it’s not about the awards.

“I don’t know why they inducted me,” Rotundo says. “It was always a labor of love for me.”

Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.