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Cafeteria worker a 'Jill-of-all-trades'

E. Russell Hicks Middle School's Pauline Mentzer is known for hard work

E. Russell Hicks Middle School's Pauline Mentzer is known for hard work

June 03, 2008|By JANET HEIM

Pauline Mentzer puts her more than 50 years of food-service experience to work as a permanent substitute food-service assistant at E. Russell Hicks Middle School and the four satellite schools it serves.

"Whenever they need me, I move around," Mentzer said.

Mentzer, who turned 82 on May 25, was surprised at work with a birthday cake, balloons, photograph with the principal and a visit by Dave Reeder, director of middle school education for Washington County Public Schools.

"It was a real surprise. I really enjoyed that," Mentzer said of the celebration.

Mentzer, whose maiden name is Hamsher, said she stopped celebrating her birthday when her father died on her birthday, so this year was an exception.

She is a Washington County native and attended Funkstown Elementary, Antietam School, Woodland Way and North Hagerstown High. Mentzer is one of four children - two daughters and two sons.

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When one of her brothers went into the service, Mentzer thought she should do her part for the family. So she quit school and got a job in the cafeteria at Fairchild. She worked there for 25 years, then worked another 25 years in the cafeteria at Mack Trucks.

Her husband, John Mentzer, retired first, then she did. When he died in 2005, after 35 years of marriage, it was hard to keep going, she said.

Mentzer's doctor suggested she go back to work and that's how she wound up in a school cafeteria, where she's worked for about three years. She's hoping to land a permanent food-service job with the school system.

"Well, I'd rather work with children," said Mentzer who noted that she finds they're easier to please than adults.

Mentzer works part time on the serving line and is known for being a hard worker.

"She's a 'Jill-of-all-trades,'" said Debbie Weaver, food service manager at E. Russell Hicks.

Mentzer said she and her husband used to enjoy traveling. Now she depends on her 3-year-old Bichon Frisé, Snowball, for companionship.

"I don't know what I'd do without her," Mentzer said.

When school's out for summer, Mentzer said, she spends time working in the garden.

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