By Scott Simmons
She was born in Cuba. She grew up in Puerto Rico. And she lived in New York.
But now, Highland Beach is home to Martha Pando, who delights in her position as library assistant at the town’s library.
“I love the people who come in,” Pando says. “Our director is a visionary, and each staff member has his or her expertise. But the patrons make it a treat.”
Her job is a source of relaxation for Pando, who had a career in the high-tech industry.
Pando worked for Compaq, then Hewlett-Packard, and lived all over Florida, doing tech support for medical centers, banks and schools.
Then she was offered an early retirement.
“I’ve been bought and bought again,” Pando says, laughing about the buyouts she accepted from her jobs. “This is the only place I haven’t been bought!”
As library assistant, Pando coordinates all of the classes and performances the library hosts.
She sets up the stage for concerts, but she seldom gets to attend a full performance: “We’re working, but we pop in and out,” she says.
Pando is especially proud of the karate class, one of the few activities in which she actually has time to participate.
“It’s a good exercise,” she says. “It’s a whole-body thing, like yoga.”
And the library’s chair-massage sessions and seasonal yoga classes also have proven popular, with upward of 15 people attending.
The library job is a family affair for Pando, whose husband, Julio Nigaglioni, helps her and co-worker Phyllis Edwards close up the library in the evenings.
Pando has one son and two young grandchildren in New Jersey. She also has three stepchildren.
The 10-year Highland Beach resident was active on the town’s Beaches & Shores Advisory Board. Pando resigned that post when she started working part-time at the library three years ago; her job became full-time last fall.
Pando also has been involved with the town’s Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, which would take charge of beach clean-up in the event of an oil spill or other disaster. (There’s a CERT sign-up sheet in the library.)
But it’s the library and its patrons that are Pando’s main focus.
She jokes around with Harry Levy, 90, who occasionally serenades the library staff and patrons with his mandolin. And on a recent morning, she engaged in good-natured banter with Edwards.
“People here are very nice,” Pando laughs. “You would have to be a porcupine not to get along.”