School cook hangs up hair net after 45 years

Published 10:05 am Saturday, January 29, 2011


IVOR—Prestonia Purdie will have a hard time adjusting to her new schedule.

For the last 45 years, the great-grandmother has left her home in Ivor around 6:30 a.m. to cook for the students in Southampton County Public Schools. On Feb. 1, Purdie will retire.

“It was a hard decision,” the 78-year-old said. “But it’s time now for me to take some time for myself.”

County School Superintendent Charles Turner said Thursday the district will always be grateful for her service.

“Mrs. Purdie was a loyal and dedicated employee, serving Southampton County Public Schools in a very effective manner during her tenure,” Turner said. “It was a pleasure having her as an employee in the school system.”

Purdie said she has nothing but pleasant memories of her years with the school system.

“I’ve worked with some mighty nice people, never had an argument, never had any bad feelings whatsoever,” she said. “Now in the cafeteria, when some of the kids looked at their meals, they might say ‘I don’t like this.’ I just said, ‘Well, choose something else down the line.’”

Purdie started with the school district as a bus driver in 1963. After two years, she began working in the cafeteria at Hunterdale, while still driving the bus.

She later transferred to Southampton Middle School and then the Head Start program. Purdie worked part-time at Nottoway Elementary and ended up full time at Meherrin Elementary School.

She continued to drive the bus until seven years ago. She gave that up to give herself a little more free time.

For 40 years, Purdie was a cafeteria manager, where she was responsible for everything, including training employees.

“There were six cooks and one assistant manager, but I did all the ordering, planned the menu, and collected the money,” Purdie said. “And I can’t tell you how much paperwork there was involved.”

She doesn’t know how many students she has served over the years but estimates it has been in the thousands.

“Some of the schools have fewer, of course, but I believe there are as many as 500 students at Meherrin,” Purdie said.

Needless to say, she knows most of them by name.

“So many of them have told me how sorry they are that I’m leaving, and the feeling is mutual,” Purdie said. “But it is time for me to slow down. Forty-five years is a long time and I’d like to have more time for my church and maybe travel a little.”

“But I’m going to miss the routine,” Purdie added. “Actually, I’ve worked in the cafeteria from one school to another through three generations. I am now feeding the grandchildren of some of the first students I had.”