"You feel happy when you pour tea:" Three catering legends retire

From backstage with famous artists to dinners at the Appalachian House, they have been there for decades ensuring everything is perfect for hosts and guests alike at Appalachian State University.

Beyond their combined 68 years of service at Appalachian Food Services, Ginger Hale, Della Campbell and Diane Wilcox share a couple other commonalities: all spent the end of their careers making sure App Catering events went off without a hitch, and all will be retired by the end of the Spring 2018 semester.

Catering Supervisor Ginger HaleCatering Supervisor Ginger Hale (pictured left) came to Appalachian State University in 1990 and worked in the Gold Room as a cashier. The Gold Room was a restaurant that occupied the same space in Plemmons Student Union that McAlister’s Deli currently occupies.

“When the Gold Room closed for the summer one year I went to work with catering and fell in love with it,” Hale said. “I loved meeting different people and working with the team. My first day I had to carry a tray of stemware glasses with tea in them. I dropped the whole thing. I just about started to cry but my co-workers just laughed and helped me clean up – they made it fun.”

Working catering is busy and fast-paced. It sometimes requires getting to campus before the sun or staying until the stars are out.

“It’s not stressful when we get the event sheet and prepare for the event,” Hale said. “But, there is excitement and nerves once the order goes out the door because we never know what we will encounter once we get to the event.”

Della Campbell (pictured right), who retired on January 31, spent the last years of her Food Services career as a catering technician, and like Hale started in 1990 but in the food court in Welborn Hall, which was a dining hall that stood partly where Roess Dining Hall stands now. della_300.jpg

 “Catering got me out of the building and meeting people,” Campbell said. “My favorite part was tea parties. They were a lot of hard work, but when we put up the tables they looked so pretty I wanted to take a photo of them. We served petit fours, sandwiches and we would pour tea. You feel happy when you pour tea.” 

Hale and Campbell have served meals to five chancellors, and many speakers, artists, actors and activists who have visited campus over the last 28 years including their two most memorable: Robert Kennedy Jr. and Robby Benson.

“We weren’t nervous, just excited,” Hale said.

Diane, Catering Technician

Diane Wilcox (pictured left) has worked for Food Services for 12 years, and completes the Appalachian Food Services Catering trifecta.

Wilcox said when she started her job at Appalachian it “was like heaven.” She started at WrApps, worked for catering in the summer and went back to WrApps for the academic year. But, she missed going to functions and being with people on the team. So, she joined catering permanently. 

“I feel needed every day,” Wilcox said. “I have no problem getting up and going to work. I’ve made so many friends and loved to serve our customers.”

In their 28 years, Hale and Campbell have served the New Student Orientation cookout meal to over 68,000 new students and their families, and in 12 years Wilcox has served approximatley 34,700. 

“I stayed so long because I liked my job very much,” Campbell said. “People on campus know us by name. And, I loved working with students. Most students didn’t know much about Food Services, like how to cut fresh fruit or even how to use a knife. We worked with them and taught them how to serve a meal.”

Hale laughed remembering when she learned how to drive a catering truck.

“My supervisor at the time told me ‘you will learn to drive this truck’,’” Hale said. “And I never thought I would.” 

Hale has been the catering supervisor for at least 20 years. Her office is decorated with photos, note cards and signed frames from chancellors, athletes and former students who worked in catering.

“I look back at the students and some of them are friends now and have children," Hale said. "I’ve been able to see their lives grow like they are family. That will be the hardest part – missing the people.”

While Campbell has already retired, Hale and Wilcox will retire on March 31.

Published: Mar 27, 2018 3:52pm