Newcastle Evening Chronicle 20 September 2016
After 38 years of service staff and students at Bede Primary School in Gateshead said an emotional goodbye to dinner lady Jenny Parkin.
Mrs Parkin, 74, retired on Friday and was showered with presents from a community she’s been right at the heart of for decades.
School staff organised a surprise assembly for Mrs Parkin’s final day, which she said was “absolutely fantastic”.
She said: “The day was exceptional, everything was a total surprise. It was emotional, in a way, but it was so fantastic I didn’t have time to feel sad.
“I’ve had so many gifts, flowers, wine, theatre tickets, mountains of things.”
She’ll be remembered fondly not only by current pupils but by their parents and, in some cases, even their grandparents, who were served by her as youngsters themselves.
School business manager Gillian McTeer said: “We’re right in the middle of the Old Fold here in Gateshead, rooted in that community, and the majority of parents and even some grandparents all know her from their time here.
“We hope Mrs Parkin enjoys a long and happy retirement, because she’s been such a stalwart and a massive part of life at Bede Primary.”
Mrs Parkin has seen plenty of changes in her time, including the changeover from an infant school to a full junior school.
When she started working at the school, in the Old Fold, dinner ladies would rush to prepare one set meal, and pupils didn’t get much say over what they ate. Now she says there’s far more choice, which is “much better” for some pupils.
After years of rushing to get dinner ready for hundreds of hungry pupils, the grandmother-of-four will now have plenty of time to relax — though she says leaving the school where she’s worked for so long was bittersweet.
“At the moment I almost wish the day hadn’t come,” she said. “I’ve always enjoyed being there, I’ve loved it, but you get to a stage when you can’t be there forever.”