Cathy Barrington plays the drums and sings with various jazz and blues bands. But she is known in the school district as the singing secretary. (Special to The News)

Singing secretary at Maple Ridge elementary school leaves on a high note

Cathy Barrington, whose rendition of At Last went viral online, has retired

A Maple Ridge school secretary, who was featured in a video that went viral in 2018 as she sang At Last by Etta James on the final day of school before summer break, has retired.

Cathy Barrington, secretary at Eric Langton Elementary, was able to squeeze in one more performance on her final day in the office Jan. 15, singing Whitney Houston’s The Greatest Love of All.

Barrington was overwhelmed as class after class – 20 in all – filed past her perch, at the front entrance to the school, leaving her cards and crafts as they said bye to the beloved school secretary.

“I am overwhelmed,” said Barrington.

“There were lots of tears,” she added.

Barrington, who has been with the school district for 25 years, got her start by volunteering at Riverside elementary.

“My husband said you spend so much time at the school, you might as well get a job there. So I did,” she laughed.

When Riverside closed, Barrington wanted to be part of the french immersion program in Maple Ridge, a program all three of her now adult children went through, and so she got a job at Eric Langton, where she has spent the past 11 years.

Barrington decided over Christmas break that she wanted to spend more time with her grandchildren, but said she had been thinking of retiring for a while now.

“I thought it’s time,” noted Barrington, wanting to spend more time being Grammy.

Barrington, who plays the drums and sings with various jazz and blues bands, remembers being shocked as a video of her singing her own rendition of At Last garnered more than 10,000 hits on Facebook – a story that was picked up by Black Press and went to every community paper website across the province. It was even picked up by a nightly newscast.

Singing on the final day of school before summer break was a tradition the school secretary brought with her from Riverside to Eric Langton.

And now that she is unable to gig because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she joked about tuning into her fan-base.

“At least I have a captive audience at school.”

Before Barrington took one last opportunity to perform over the loudspeaker on her final day, she shared her reason for choosing Houston’s famous song.

“Because it says: I believe our children are our future; Teach them well and help them lead the way,” said Barrington.

“Find your strength in love,” recited Barrington.

“It’s kind of what we live in the education system. Teaching kids to be be the best they can and live with love and dignity,” she said.

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