Miami University dining hall worker retires after six decades

But it isn’t the food Ayers will remember from more than half a century at Miami — it’s the students.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet. Last Wednesday was the retirement dinner, so I haven’t had time to think about it,” she said.

While she let her retirement sink in, she recalled getting her start at Miami in 1953 through her late husband, Kemper Ayers, who also worked there.

“I got this job in one of the older buildings. Old Hepburn Hall … they had me taking care of the bell desk, handling the kids’ phone calls,” she said. After bouncing around various buildings, she finally went to Martin, which was built in 1965. And that’s where she stayed until her retirement.

“I didn’t want to move. I just stayed there. I liked it. I worked on the food line and I met the kids, and I was good to the kids. I made them feel at home,” she said, noting that the students called her “Jo Jo.”

One of those students was Nathan Sutherland, a 2011 graduate who was a member of the school’s golf team.

“She was just so nice. She had a great sense of humor. It was the repetition of seeing her. I saw her almost every morning. She made me laugh and I made her laugh, and I think humor can bring almost everybody together,” he said.

Ayers became so well known for taking care of the students, she received the university’s Innovative Leadership Award in 2013 for her “exemplary customer service.”

“Since I got to know (the golf team) so well, when they’d go on their trips, I would get them a snack to take with them … at Christmas time, I’d give them a T-shirt, and they were so happy. They came in there and felt at home. These last ones graduated this year and I went and bought them all a watch,” Ayers said.

And it wasn’t just the golf team that Ayers knew.

“Last year, the football boys came and asked me, would I let them interview me for a class? I let them and they got an A,” she said.

Sutherland said Ayers “finds the good in any situation. She’s very optimistic and she definitely thinks about everybody else before herself. She’s about as selfless as they come.”

Now that Ayers’ work is done, “I’m not going to sit home and get old,” she said. She has plans to travel around the country visiting friends and relatives.

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