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Retiring Central York lunch lady serves special guests

JESSICA SCHLADEBECK
YorkDispatch


As the line of hungry third-graders during the last lunch hour of the school year at Roundtown Elementary School began to dwindle, a lunch lady who was scooping corn for the last time before her retirement was greeted with a surprise.

Family and friends of lunch lady Dorothy Ferguson filed into the cafeteria and accepted lunch trays boasting meals that brought on vivid memories of past school lunchtimes and became the last people she would hand trays to after 37 years of service.

"I was so surprised," Ferguson said. "I really wasn't expecting anything at all, I was just trying to get through the day without crying, but I really couldn't help it when I saw them."

Ferguson, 81, joined Central York School District's staff nearly 40 years ago and has been at Roundtown for 15. She stayed there because "I loved it more than I could have possibly expected."

'Young at heart': Ferguson had a range of responsibilities behind the lunch counter, including cooking, serving students, washing dishes and cleaning.

"Whatever needs to be done, I do it," she said. "You have to be young at heart to do this job, and I just really like people."

After her husband passed away, Ferguson decided serving lunch to her own children would offer her a serving of happiness of her own.

"My children all went to Central, so I thought it'd be nice to see them during the day and have time off with them over the summer, too," she said. "Eventually they moved on and I just stayed here. One of my sons is actually dating a student I served back in 1985. A bunch of the kids that I serve now, well I have served their parents, too."

Ferguson, who is excited to relax during her retirement, will also be doing volunteer work with Meals on Wheels.

"It seemed a perfect fit given my experience with food and serving," she said. "But I can't wait to spend time with my family."

'A second family': Though she's excited to unwind, Ferguson said she will miss all the people she has met during her time at Roundtown.

"I love the children here, they're just a really wonderful group of kids," Ferguson said. "Everyone here has become like a second family to me, and I love them so dearly, and I will never forget them."

The feeling was mutual.

"I really like her," kindergartner Alissah Stoner said. "I'm going into first grade next year and I wish she could have stayed for that. She's really nice."

Ferguson's son, David, was among those she served at the end of her final shift.

"She's a really amazing person and a great mom," he said. "We wanted to do something nice for her because no one deserves it more."

Ferguson said she wouldn't trade her experience in the cafeteria for anything.

"It was an absolutely amazing ride," she said. "And I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat."

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at jschladebeck@yorkdispatch.com.