The passion and love of education possessed by Christine Matta will never be forgotten.

She exuded happiness, saw the glass half full, enjoyed being part of the Greater New Milford community and loved the children and families who patronized her business.

Matta, who died suddenly Aug. 5 as a result of an unexpected illness, was the director of the Learning Center on Main Street in New Milford.

"She loved what she did, and loved to follow up and see the progress of past students," said Matta's daughter-in-law, Colleen Oliveira, of Arizona.

"She was very proud of what she had done" in building The Learning Center, Oliveira related.

The center offers consultations and evaluations; learning center programs that target areas where students have missed certain foundational skills; exam prep programs; and maintenance programs, including homework help and enrichment for students who want to continue at the center after they have completed individualized programs.

"It's a place for students looking to catch up, keep up, or get ahead at school," according to Jessica Reis, director of operations.

"We do more than just skill build, which I am very proud of," Reis said. "All of our teachers are mentors to these students as well, with their instruction reaching farther than instilling knowledge and understanding."

The Learning Center remains open today, under Reis' leadership.

Matta's son, Jordan Oliveira, said the family is looking for a new owner to carry on his mother's legacy.

"Our ultimate goal is to have someone take over who will have as much passion and appreciation (for education) as she did. ... To keep her legacy going," Matta's daughter-in-law said.

Robert Romano, Matta's brother-in-law, is helping Jordan with the center's immediate business matters.

"It's a shame to let that go," he said.

He is optimistic someone will come forward to buy the center.

"Somebody has to be willing to purchase this business," Romano said.

Colleen described her mother-in-law as a woman who was, at the time of her death, at the "high point in all areas of her life," including being a first-time grandmother to the Oliveiras' 5-month-old son, Kai.

The center was "the culmination of her passion and love of education," Oliveira related.

"She loved the kids and all the families and staff... they were like a second family," she said.

Oliveira said Matta frequently told her and her husband about "the kids who came back to visit."

Matta especially liked having the business in downtown New Milford -- in space housed in the Webster Bank building at 19 Main St., right across from the bandstand -- because she loved being a part of and giving back to the community.

Business associates recalled her support of and attendance at business and civic activities, always sporting a smile and sharing kind words.

"She always had a way of making everyone feel important," Colleen related.

Her love of children was lifelong.

After teaching in Hawaii years ago, Matta returned to the continental U.S. and worked at Grolier, where she was known for offering kid-friendly activities at company events.

"My boys loved her, and they had a mutual respect for each other," said Debbie McGrath of New Milford, whose three now-grown boys, Brian, Sean and Brendan, received extra help from Matta over the years.

McGrath praised the late teacher's ability to zone in on students' issues and help them find solutions, as well as her innate ability to develop personal relationships.

"She was like a counselor, a mentor," McGrath said. "It was nice to know your child had someone to talk to and that you could trust them."

"She loved her son (Jordan) and you could see that love going into your kids too," McGrath noted.

After graduating from high school, one of McGrath's sons bought a special thank you card and personally delivered it to Matta with a message that brought the two to tears, McGrath said.

For more information about the center, call the 19 Main St., Suite B center at 860-354-0854, visit www.learningcenternm.com or find the center on Facebook, or email Jessica Reis at jessica.learningcenternm@gmail.com.