BELMONT  — Maxine Harford looked around her yard, almost literally filled with toys of all types, and shook her head.

“It’s amazing,” Harford said, “how much stuff we’ve gathered over the years.”

Forty years, to be exact. Harford has owned and operated Maxie’s Daycare in Belmont since 1982. Harford retired and closed the daycare in June after four decades of snack and nap times.

“I’ve loved it,” Harford said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun. I’m going to miss watching the kids grow up.”

Harford might have missed her life’s work entirely if she had received a raise at her previous job.

“I didn’t get the raise,” Harford said, “so I figured I’d try something else.”

At the time she and husband Ron were accepting foster children and someone suggested Harford try operating a daycare.

“The training was easy back then,” Harford said. “It didn’t take long, and we were open in 1982 with one kid, and it just grew from there.”

Licensed for 12 children in 1982, Maxie’s Daycare has accommodated that number every year since.

“I don’t remember having to advertise much,” Harford said. “My advertising was word of mouth, and we were always full.”

A balky knee and back prompted Harford’s decision to close the daycare. “I didn’t want to pick up a child and take a tumble because of my knee,” she said.

Harford estimates that she has taken care of “close to 400” children during her 40-year career. She and Ron have also raised two sons, adopted another son, and fostered five other children.

“We’re a team,” said Harford of her husband. “We’re in this together. He got morning hugs from the kids just like me.”

Harford says she’ll miss the morning ritual at her daycare. That sentiment won’t extend to paperwork and training.

“It’s so much different from when I started,” said Harford of federal and state child care regulations and requirements. “There’s a lot of training required every year and tons of paperwork. I understand why, but I’m not going to miss any of that.”

Four decades toys fill the yard of Maxie’s Daycare. Photo by Jim Leonard

With retirement plans of more time “at camp,” Harford sees her life’s work throughout the community on a regular basis.

“I like running into the kids I’ve taken care of,” Harford said. “It happens all the time. These kids become a part of your life. You can’t help it. You’re with them all day and so they become like your kids, like a part of your family. You want to see them doing well.”

Harford has cared for the children of parents who were once at the daycare themselves a handful of times. She admits this puts her career in focus.

“A child you cared for, bringing their child to our center,” Harford said. “It makes me grateful I’ve been able to do this for so many years.”

Maxine and Ron Harford have run Maxie’s Daycare for 40 years. Photo by Jim Leonard

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