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They Say It's Your Birthday: Cooper Elementary Celebrates Lunch Lady Lavonne Anderson's 80th Year - from The Messenger

January 18, 2019

Part of Lavonne Anderson’s job as a food service worker at Cooper Elementary School is writing the day’s dishes on the menu board by the kitchen.

On Thursday, someone put her on the menu.

Not to have for lunch, but rather to celebrate at lunch.

“Happy Birthday Lavonne,” it read in the place where the breakfast cereal would usually be written.

The staff provided her with a tiara and sash to celebrate the day.

LoVonne receiving flowers from students

One other 80th birthday accessory didn’t quite work out.

“I had glasses that said 80,” Anderson said. “I couldn’t get them to stay on, though.”

Throughout the day, students brought her more gifts.

“All the kids have been bringing carnations,” she said. “Eighty of them. They surprised me.”

She was pretty surprised at all of it, actually.

“They did a great job,” she said of the staff. “I wasn’t expecting anything.”

Anderson has spent several decades working in the school district.

“I started at the high school. I retired once. We snowbirded in Texas for awhile and I would sub part of the time. A job came open and now I’m full time.”

Part of her day’s chores is taking the trays from the students when they’re done eating. On Thursday, as they came up, most of them wished her a happy birthday. Many of them did the same when they picked up their trays and some came up and asked for a hug.

Cooper Principal Bruce Hartley watched the students with a big smile on his face.

LaVonne receiving a card with 80 made from candy from students

“Lavonne does a wonderful job of being positive and welcoming to our students,” he said. “She cares about each and every one of them.”

Hartley may not stay in the workforce as long as Anderson has.

“I kind of doubt that,” he said.

Anderson enjoys being around the students.

“I like the kids,” she said. “They help keep me active.”

Many of the students did not realize Anderson was 80.

One guessed her at 46.

One of her coworkers said, “You’re only 29.”

Another student really liked her fashion accessories.

“I like your sash.”

“Thank you, dear,” Anderson replied.

The last shift of students to eat lunch at Cooper are the fourth-graders.

They had just a little bit of trouble figuring out what year Anderson was born.

Their guesses went from 1938 — one year off — to 1947, a bit more off.

One student did do the math, though: “1939.”

They also learned some facts from the year of Anderson’s birth. For example, the average home cost about $3,800 and the average salary was $1,730.

Bread was 8 cents a loaf.

“That sounds about right,” Anderson said.

On Thursday, there was also music during the lunch shifts.

Hartley helped Anderson find some songs from her youth on his phone to play on the sound system.

“How about Jailhouse Rock?” he asked her.

“Yeah,” she said. “That’s a good one.”

At the end of her day, with plenty of new memories of turning 80, there is now a new memory she had ever expected: working on her 80th birthday.

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