Rose Marie Farrar has been singing as long as she can remember, going back to her grade school days when she sang in the choir at St. Cecilia’s Church in Manhattan.
Dubbed the “Nightingale” of the village by former Mayor Tom Muldoon, Farrar, 83, still makes special appearances as she did during Memorial Day ceremonies at Williston Park Village Hall when she delivered stirring versions of the national anthem and “God Bless America.”
“What a gift. I thank God every day,” she said of her vocal ability.
Farrar, who has lived in Williston Park for more than 30 years, took singing lessons at Carnegie Hall when she was younger. She thought about a singing career, but she didn’t like the idea of being on the road. And then something preempted her ruminations about being a professional nightingale.
“I did consider it. But I met my husband and wanted to get married,”
She and her husband William raised four children together before he died suddenly in 1980.
That loss opened a new chapter of volunteer activity in her life, which naturally included singing.
“I felt after Bill died, I was going to make a difference. I wanted to live,” she recalled.
Farrar began singing at mass in her parish at St. Aidan Church, and sang at the 9 a.m. daily mass for 10 years and has been singing at Christmas masses for 32 years. She also sings at St. Aidan with the choir on Sundays.
She has also served as a eucharistic minister at St. Aidan, distributing communion at mass and to those who are homebound. Farrar is also a member of the ministry of consolation at St. Aidan and formerly taught religious education classes there for 17 years.
“I enjoyed sharing my faith with these kids,” she said.
In addition to her church activities, Farrar started singing every Thursday for patients at the A. Holly Patterson Nursing Home, performing Broadway tunes and Italian songs she learned when she was a little girls. She also served lunches there for the past 17 years, logging 2,500 hours of service.
Asked what she enjoys about singing, she said, “That I can do it. It’s a gift God gave me. I’ll sing until I die. And I hope to sing up in heaven.”
She’s also volunteered her time with the American Red Cross in Mineola for eight years and was recognized for her efforts with a plaque last year. The inscription on it reads, “Your joy in helping others has enriched the lives of many.”
In March, she was honored as a member of the Women’s Roll of Honor for the Town of North Hempstead.
Farrar never made it to Broadway, but she has been on stage in productions of the Herricks Community Players from 1980 to 1995, last performing “With a Song in My Heart” in a revue of Irving Berlin songs in 2004. And she still helps the Herricks players out, working the concession stand.
Corresponding secretary for the Herricks Senior Citizens, she sings the national anthem or “God Bless America” for the Herricks seniors every Tuesday when they meet at the Herricks Community Center.
Her brother, John Vacari, was a Korean War veteran so Farrar is a member of Albertson VFW Post 5253 and the American Legion Post in Williston Park.
Farrar’s vitality belies her 83 years, and on Aug. 18, she’ll be competing in a talent show for the Brave Hearts group she belongs to at St. Francis Hospital.
These days, her life revolves around her six grandchildren and the good neighbors she’s grateful she has in Williston Park.
“I’m very grateful I’m still alive,” she said.