January 30, 2013
Fond farewell for 34-year cook
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Barry Elementary School cafeteria cook Kathy Dunn gets a hug from a Barry School student during a retirement celebration in her honor at the school Tuesday morning. Dunn is retiring on Wednesday after 34 years.
Barry Elementary School’s sixth-graders estimate that Kathy Dunn has prepared about 3,672,000 meals in 34 years as the school’s head cook.
That probably included breakfast and lunch Tuesday, when the school’s more than 370 students and dozens of current and retired staff gathered in the gymnasium to honor Dunn. It probably counted today’s breakfast and lunch, which was to be the last meals she would prepare.
And today’s lunch was “brunch,” her most challenging because of its many choices of pancakes, french toast, sausage and other breakfast foods.
Dunn sat at a model stove for the one-hour ceremony, wearing a white chef’s hat, facing the rows of students. She led the students in the Pledge of Allegiance, greeted students who had birthdays, and posed for a group photo with the 15 recipients of the school citizenship award for January.
The event was a surprise. Head custodian Steve Hulslander asked her to accompany him to the gymnasium at 9 a.m. and she beamed as she saw the students.
Each class talked about some aspect of Dunn’s career, as the entire school sat in rows and listened. Dunn received plaques from CSEA, school district and Parent Teacher Association. She started work at the school in September 1978 as a dish washer.
Student Council officers Morgan Tabel, Kara Perkins and Kaitlyn Pratt assisted Principal Lynn New with leading the event. The guests included Dunn’s mother, Jane Hill, and sister, Ann Henderson.
Teachers and staff had a luncheon for Dunn on Monday.
Mary Camarano, in her 28th year as a teacher aide, said Dunn “does a lot of hard work and loves the kids,” arriving at about 6 a.m. to prepare breakfast and begin preparing lunch.
The students tend to know everyone in the school, not just teachers, and some of them in recent years have been children of students who attended the school earlier in Dunn’s career.
“She knows the kids, she knows which ones need special meals,” Camarano said. “She loves it when they say good morning to her.”
Hulslander, who has been at the school for 33 years, and Camarano said continuity is important in a school’s community.
New asked the children for qualities they see in Dunn. One said she was a teacher, emphasizing manners.
The citizenship certificate winners received hugs from Dunn before the group photo. New said Dunn is an example of a Barry School citizen, because she is always at work, is on time and does her job the best she can.
Nancy Morton, who is taking over Dunn’s job and has worked with Dunn for nine years, called her “a very dear friend” and a sister.
Afterward, Dunn accepted hugs from children before they headed back to their classrooms, then greeted her mother and sister. Morton carried Dunn’s gifts.
Dunn was asked if the morning’s event was overwhelming.
“It’s nice to be remembered,” Dunn said, “but I have lunch to prepare.”
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