Retiring Albion lunch lady impresses with work ethic for half century

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 September 2017 at 5:42 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers: Betty Christopher has a pizza ready to be served today for lunch in the high school. She has worked in Albion school cafeterias for 49 years. Today was her last day.

ALBION – It’s busy in the kitchen at Charles D’Amico High School. Betty Christopher is opening oven doors, putting in pizzas and trays of chicken patties.

She pulls out pizzas and patties, and checks the temperature to make sure the meat is fully cooked.

She slices pizzas and carries them to the lunch line.

It feels like a whirlwind, getting the food ready for about 225 students.

Christopher has worked in the school cafeteria for more than 49 years. This year was the start of her 50th year. She was going to retire after last school year, but stayed a little longer to help train a replacement to start the school year.

But today was her last official day. (She hasn’t ruled out coming in as a substitute.)

“She has been the go-to person whenever someone has a question,” said her co-worker Terri Furmanski.

Christopher, 83, didn’t slow down on her last day. She likes the fast pace, but she admits the cement floors have taken a toll on her feet and legs.

“It’s just time,” she said about retirement.

Betty Christopher checks the temperature of the chicken patties after they came out of the oven. The cafeteria workers are employees of Sodexo.

It was 1968, when Betty Christopher was looking for a job where she could work after her kids went to school and be home after the school day.

She found that job in the school cafeteria. She worked out of what is now the middle school. Back then it was the middle and high school for students in grades 7 to 12. (A new high school was built in the early 1970s, and next-door school became a middle school-only.)

Christopher also worked out of the former grammar school on East Academy Street.

“It worked out very well for my family,” she said. “I knew what the kids were doing at school. I knew their teachers, and their friends.”

Christopher’s daughters include Sherri Piazza, a Spanish teacher in New Jersey; Mary Dunham, a registered nurse at Medina Memorial Hospital; and Allyn Christopher, an occupational therapist assistant at Medina Memorial.

When her kids got older, Christopher picked up more hours in the cafeteria. She is retiring as a supervisor/cook.

“I like being with the kids and the girls I work with,” she said. “I will miss the girls and the kids.”

Some of the cafeteria workers are pictured with Christopher on her last official day. They include, from left: Sharon Schlegel, Cynthia Davis, Brenda Wheeler, Betty Christopher and Terri Furmanski.

When Christopher started in 1968, there wasn’t a McDonalds or Burger King in Albion. Some students go for fast food for their school lunch, and many carry cups from Tim Hortons and Dunkin’ Donuts.

She preferred her early days on the job when there was more “home cooking.” She still hears from students from decades ago who loved her Sloppy Joe’s and hamburger gravy. The meals today have to meet nutritious standards with far less salt and sodium.

Brenda Wheeler, one of her co-workers, said Christopher will be sorely missed.

“She has been fantastic to work with,” Wheeler said. “She is a super person.”

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