Stephanie Quimby-Greene wears many hats.
The one she’s got on today is tall, red-and-white striped and oh-so-Seuss-ish. Quite appropriate for the occasion: Quimby-Greene is entertaining a herd of kids, toddlers to tweens, as part of Spectacular Seussabrations, a recent Bookmans event honoring Dr. Seuss. She’s telling a story about “The Cat in the Hat,” twisting balloons into bees and flowers and transforming plain kids into talking, face-painted canvases.
This is what she does for fun.
It’s also kinda what she does for her day job.
When she’s not in character presiding over special kid activities at Bookmans — where she’s been a fixture for years — or a child’s birthday party on the weekends, you can find her, sometimes dressed in costume, Monday through Friday at Rio Vista Elementary School, where she’s the librarian.
Quimby-Greene’s weekend alter ego, Silly Tassie, is known as “Tucson’s fairy godmother,” but any Rio Vista parent will tell you that’s true of the woman herself.
“She’s the best,” says Mindy Oum, a past president of the school’s Family Teacher Organization. Her 10-year-old daughter, Madison, went to Rio Vista for four years. “The kids love her.”
Well, Madison made Mrs. Q-G a Valentine’s Day card without even knowing when she might see her. She was beyond excited when her mom brought her to the Seussabration, and she could hand-deliver her gift. Quimby-Greene wasted no time taping her Valentine onto a shelf. She says she saves all the cards kids make.
Another testament to their affection for her?
“Sometimes, we actually skip out on soccer,” says Rachel Barrick, whose 7-year-old son, Tyler, would rather miss out on sports than Quimby-Greene’s Bedtime Book Bears, a regular evening event that brings families into the library for crafts and fun.
“She really gets their imagination flowing,” says Barrick, who attended Rio Vista as a kid.
The 59-year-old mother of two is known for her innovative programs to get kids to read more and for transforming herself into other characters so convincingly that the students really do believe Mrs. Quimby-Greene has a sub for the day.
“The kids will come and tattle on me,” she laughs.
One day she might be Mrs. Wintergreene, a Mrs. Claus-like persona — “My basic build is Mrs. Claus,” Quimby-Greene jokes — or maybe cranky Mrs. Gangreene, who hails from Louisiana.
A native Tucsonan, Quimby-Greene gets a kick out of the fact that she’s gone to high school with some of her students’ grandparents. Creativity is really, truly in her DNA. Her father was an artist who played drawing games with her, while her grandmother was a magician who had a Yuma TV show called “Mrs. Quimby’s Hour.”
About 25 years ago, when a coworker asked her to face-paint for her grandson’s birthday party, Quimby-Greene didn’t think she had the artistic skills to do it. Turns out she did. Soon, friends were asking her to do their kids’ parties. Then, when her husband was undergoing cancer treatment eight years ago and couldn’t work, she started doing events and kids’ parties for extra income. He’s since recovered, but she’s still on the birthday-party circuit — to find her, just Google “Silly Tassie.” She considers it her hobby.
“It’s fun, it’s not work,” she says.
Quimby-Greene always loved planning her own children’s parties. They’re all grown up now — her daughter is on the faculty of the University of San Francisco where she works in dance and theater, while her son is a local musician who founded his own music label, Diet Pop Records. No grandkids yet, but Quimby-Greene says she kind of feels like she’s getting a preview.
“I would love to have grandchildren,” she says. “As it is, I have about 1,000.”