It’s one of those bitter ironies of life: Morris County’s undisputed Queen of Recycling cannot be recycled.
“There is no replacing Penny,” said Liz Sweedy, choking back tears at Friday’s 26th Annual Morris County Recycling Awards Dinner at the Hanover Manor.
Penny Jones, a.k.a. Glinda Garbahj, county recycling education specialist, is calling it a career after 29 years.
“I want to read every issue of The New Yorker,” she said of her retirement plans. We trust the magazines will be sorted and disposed of properly when she is finished with them.
The evening wasn’t all bittersweet. Recycling awards were handed out to more than a dozen individuals and organizations.
They included Morristown High School senior Naomi Pohl — she designed two marine biology research investigations and is bound for the University of Pennsylvania– and Furnishing Solutions, a Morris Plains shop selling gently used furniture.
As always, the yearly fashion show was a highlight.
Rebecca McLain, a County College of Morris student from Morristown, looked stunning wrapped in a table cloth and accessorized with earrings and a bracelet made from soda tabs. The ensemble was designed by classmate Emily Van Eeuwen of Morris Plains.
But front and center, for the last time, was the mistress of ceremonies. Penny may deal in bundled paper and tin cans, but the accolades heaped upon her on Friday were pure gold.
“She’s carried this whole program on her back,” said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.).
Longtime pal Donna Bangiola marveled at Penny’s “great legacy.”
Liz Sweedy, who has worked alongside Penny for 16 years in the Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority, designed a dress from coffee filters for Penny’s Glinda persona. “Penny is the heartbeat of our office, and the anchor… She’s a tough act to follow,” Liz said.
“She’s irreplaceable. She put so much energy into this, and got so many people involved. She made recycling grow in Morris County, without a doubt,” said former Morris Freeholder Frank Druetzler, who also happens to be mayor of Penny’s hometown, Morris Plains.
The Mayor said he will use his official powers to prevent his constituent from relocating to any southern retirement communities.
“She’s not allowed to leave Morris Plains,” Mayor Frank decreed. “I already asked her to be on the Parade Committee.”
A cake for Penny bore a remarkable likeness to her Glinda character, a cross between the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz and Tinkerbell clad in a lamp shade and discarded auto tire.
The caricature is courtesy of children’s illustrator Don Madden. Penny ranks that honor right up there with meeting Gary Anderson, the guy who designed the recycling symbol back in the ’70s.
If there is one takeaway from her tenure, she hopes it is this:
“It’s very important that we take care of Mother Nature, for our children’s children’s children. And recycling is part of the way we take care of Mother Nature,” said Penny, showing off her recycled earrings of petrified moose poo.
(In our video interview, Penny also revealed her love for that fabled group, The Dung Beatles. Their drummer, Dungo, was our personal favorite.)
All seriousness aside, if there was any solace in Penny’s farewell, it was knowing that Glinda Garbahj, like our jokes, will in fact be recycled, through the miracle of digital cinema.
Penny’s Oscar-worthy performance in The Last Ride of Sustainable Man, a prize-winning entry in the 2011 MorristownGreen.com Film Festival, shall never be forgotten.
Penny put it more philosophically.
“We all get recycled eventually,” she said.
The Last Ride of Sustainable Man