Warm smiles, hot meals

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 15, 2005

I had the distinct pleasure last week of meeting Joyce Lassiter, the recently retired manager of the Gates County High School cafeteria.

She was obviously enjoying the few days of retirement she’d experienced and looking forward to many years of free time with her family.

Also obvious was the great devotion and concern she has for the students she’s left behind. She seems to me to be the epitome of a great &uot;lunch lady.&uot; At least that’s what we called our beloved school &uot;cafeteria cooks&uot; back when I attended school so many years ago.

How many of you, my dear readers, can relate to the memories I have of my school cafeteria and my favorite teacher, Mrs. Sandy Keebler?

Can you recall days when it was so cold outdoors and you sat in class and waited for that noontime bell to ring so you could get a hot meal? I recall sitting in a first floor classroom while the aroma of the best chili I’ve ever enjoyed wafted up from the cafeteria. I knew that it would be good and I knew that a delicious sandwich of peanut butter laced with honey would accompany that steaming bowl of rich tasting chili. That was one of my favorite meals and the ladies who served it were some of my favorite people.

It seems to be a prerequisite for the job of lunch lady-they must be kind and considerate individuals who have no mission in life other than to make sure the students receive the very best from their huge kitchens.

Lunch ladies at most of the 18 schools I attended (I was an Air Force brat and we moved a lot) always seemed to have a smile as they passed your plate or dessert over the counter. While that cold steel counter separated me from &uot;my&uot; lunch ladies, those smiles seemed to warm me from within. I loved that as much as the foods they served.

As for my favorite teacher, by far it had to be Mrs. Keebler. She taught me Latin for a year and I loved her classes so much, I signed up for two years of Spanish. I learned it, too, because she made it fun and she made us believe it was the most important thing in life; to know &uot;the languages.&uot; I used my Spanish, too. While in those classes, I was taking it for the fun and hardly believed that I would ever really use the language. Much to my delight, I retained enough of it to converse with Hispanic people traveling aboard Eastern and Pan American Airlines flights where I served as an &uot;airline hostess.&uot;

I am sorry to say that unlike your beloved Gates County High School teachers who seem to remain in this beautiful county, I lost track of Mrs. Keebler and I’ve never told her how grateful I am for all she taught me.

In my work with the Index, I’ve had the privilege of writing stories for students who have made a success of their lives. They never fail to say they owe it in part to their teachers at GCHS.

Mrs. Keebler was the wife of an Army sergeant and she moved on to another of his assignments after she’d left my school in Indiana and another in Alaska. I don’t know where she is today.

You, the former graduates and current students at GCHS, are so blessed to have teachers and Lunch Ladies who love the county and remain with you for years, some never leaving the county. You are so blessed because you can easily pick up a phone, or better yet, write a card of thanks to those dear hearts and gentle people who so well served you.

Mrs. Keebler, wherever you are, I am so grateful for all you taught me. If anyone ever had influence in my life, you did. As for my lunch ladies… I’m sure most have gone on to their Heavenly reward for all the kindness and love they served over those counters every school day. May God bless every one of our dear, devoted school employees.