HANCOCK — Lillian Lounder was adamant that a ceremony honoring her for 50 years of service to Hancock Grammar School was not a goodbye.
“I’d like to work more if you’d hire me,” she quipped April 10 after a surprise school-wide assembly in her honor. Still, she cautioned, “I won’t say I’ll be here for another 50 years.”
Lounder, 82, did not know the reason for the assembly until Hancock School Department Superintendent Katrina Kane announced that everyone was there to honor her.
Kane walked over to where Lounder was sitting in the bleachers and gently led her up front, where a chair and a bouquet of 50 roses were waiting for her.
“We’re thankful for you,” Kane said.
As Kane proceeded to talk about the school community’s gratitude for her work as an educational technician, Lounder sat quietly, sometimes covering her mouth or face with her hand.
She hadn’t even realized her husband, Andrew “Bing” Lounder, was there until Kane pointed him out. Several staff had been standing in front of where he was seated in order to keep his presence a surprise.
Members of the school’s recognition committee presented Lounder with a large, handmade invitation to a dessert bar celebration to be held in her honor from 6 to 7:30 p.m. May 23 at the school.
The celebration will be open to the community, and former students and staff are encouraged to attend, Kane said.
After the short presentation, Lounder made her way to the podium to address the crowd, saying the students and staff are like a second family.
“I enjoy not only all of you children here but I enjoy my second family and thank each and every one of the staff that I’ve been with through the 50 years,” she said.
Lounder started working at the school in 1969.
“I worked the first two years in the kitchen,” she told Kane and a small group of staff after the assembly. “But I gained 25 pounds.”
She then began working with students in the primary grades, supporting their academic needs. Two years ago, she began doing the same work but with seventh- and eighth-graders.
“It took me 45 years to get out of the lower grades,” she said, eliciting laughter from the group.
Lounder said she was a little apprehensive about working with a different age group but found the experience to be “wonderful.”
During the assembly, Lounder said she has worked with the children of many former students and hopes to have a chance to work with her former students’ grandchildren.
She enjoys running into former students at local stores and appreciates that they remember her.
Lounder spoke several times during the assembly and afterward about how much she enjoys her job.
“I don’t need someone to say thank you because I’m thanking you every day that I’m here,” she said, adding that coming to work keeps her young.
“You don’t need to do something to make me feel honored,” she said. “I feel honored every day that I can come here.”