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'You are a legend': After 65 years, this high school counselor is retiring

Clara-Sophia Daly, Miami Herald on

Published in Lifestyles

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Dan Finora, 90, credits his time in the military for giving him the discipline to wake up every morning at 5:30 am for the past 65 years to get ready for work at Coral Gables High School.

After a decades-long career, Finora, beloved school counselor and former business manager of Coral Gables High School will pack up his well-loved office.

Finora has counseled students behind the red door of his office for years – providing them with resources, encouragement, and more often than not, tough love.

But on Tuesday, it was his turn to receive encouragement during a surprise celebration for his retirement. Former coworkers, former students, and administrators gathered during the celebration – sharing memories and praise.

There were balloon decorations, baked goods, hugs, and smiles.

“You are an institution, you are Gables,” one teacher said on a video presented during the celebration.

Finora sat in the front row as the video played, and even in the darkness of the library you could tell he was beaming with contentment. “You are a legend and you will be missed,” another colleague said.

Finora had no idea the celebration was planned.

“Well, it was, ya know, something I didn’t expect. It was awesome,” said Finora.

‘The Real Mr. Coral Gables’

Finora has been at Coral Gables High “since they laid the first brick,” he said.

He was known for arriving early and staying late to keep his coworkers company as they finished work, or to cheer on the school’s football team. He would often show up to the high school on Saturdays to give tours to Coral Gables High School alumni, so they could see how the campus has transformed over time.

Ada Trujillo, a former transcript coordinator at the school said “He’s the heart and soul of Coral Gables.”

He also lives in Coral Gables – and jokes that he does not leave his zip code.

 

At Tuesday’s celebration, Finora was presented with gifts including a letterman jacket with “The Real Mr. Coral Gables,” embroidered on the front.

Finora has a bachelor’s in business education from the University of Miami and was stationed in the military for two years in Alabama and Georgia before committing his life to working in schools. He began his career at Coral Gables High School in 1958. Throughout the years, he held many positions including typing teacher, athletic department business manager, school business manager and school counselor.

He says one of the highlights of his career was when Coral Gables High School won the state championships for football in 1963.

Feared, but respected

The celebration was not only a time to honor Dan Finora’s years working at Coral Gables High School, but also a time to poke fun at his strict behavior. Although some say he mellowed out over the years, he was known as a rule follower who taught his students how to be disciplined.

“He was mean,” joked his former student Patricia Alvear who was in his typing class back in 1963 where she says he had a leather whip that he would hit against the desk.

“Kids feared him but also respected him,” said Fran Cosgrove, a graduation coach and member of the counseling staff.

Coral Gables High School principal Tony Ullivarri was at the surprise celebration and said that one of Finora’s greatest values was his institutional knowledge and awareness of all of the generations.

“It’s going to be a big loss for our school,” said Ullivarri. Finora lived through many events including the 1968 teachers’ strike in Miami, where teachers walked out demanding higher pay.

He was kind of like an old record book,” said Silvia Yanes, a special needs teacher, Coral Gables High School graduate, and daughter of former Coral Gables High School registrar.

“He was always around and always helping with everything,” said Yanes.

The celebration ended with a group photo and more gifts. But one gift he will not take home is a plaque which will be mounted on the wall outside his office in memory of his legacy.


©2024 Miami Herald. Visit at miamiherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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