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Animals, art keep her busy at home


Her nickname may be "Mouse," but Linda Cuzzocreo deserves another tag — Bee. As in busy as one.

She tries her hand at anything she fancies, and most often succeeds. Then, when done with a project, she is ready for a new challenge.

She's had a balloon shop and a clothing store, raised pigs and other barnyard animals, she's passionately remodeling an old schoolhouse, and to relax, she heads out to her "Mouse house" to listen to Creedence Clearwater Revival or Bach while she solders, cuts and files away to create stained glass artworks.

With the exception of her mother, she is Mouse, not Linda, to all.

"My husband did it when he first met me," she says of the pet name. "I guess it's because I'm little. I'd like to say it's because I'm quiet and shy."

At 5 feet, Cuzzocreo says maybe she'd have been taller if she'd ever simply slowed down.

Raising the roof

Ernie and Mouse Cuzzocreo moved into the old Tuttletown School off Highway 49 in 1992, fulfilling one of Mouse's dreams to live in an old schoolhouse, barn or church. Built in 1940, it was a one-room school with separate bathrooms.

The residents who moved in after the school closed lowered the ceilings and covered the wood floors with a thick, black glue to make linoleum stick.

It took a lot of sanding to get rid of that glue, Mouse says. But the elbow grease paid off, and now the school's original wood floors hold her living room furniture. In some areas the wood is scratched and imperfect, but, "I said ‘leave the scars,'" she says. "They used to have dances in here on the weekends — that's character."

The Cuzzocreos also returned the ceiling to its original height and extended the deck to wrap around the building. Later, at an auction, Mouse says she bid an unmentionable amount of money for old Tuttletown School books, prompting Ernie to put her on shopping restriction.

Exuding history from their shelf, the books include bygone subjects such as etiquette and chaperoning.

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