Olivia Pratt was just 17 years old when she put in an application to work for NHC HealthCare's precursor, Parkwood.
She got the job. And after 43 years of faithful service, she is finally enjoying retirement.
"I put in an app for me and my sister, Denise," Olivia said.
Olivia ended up working in the kitchen, and her sister in the dish room — a job initially offered to Olivia.
"I told them I'm not washing dishes, so I sent my sister instead," she said with a chuckle.
A few days later, Olivia was offered a position as a dietary aid. She was able to work alongside cooks and build relationships with the patients at Parkwood, a residential facility for seniors and, now, those undergoing rehabilitation as well.
"I had no intention of staying there long," she confessed. "But one day the cook came up to me and asked me to make biscuits, so I did."
Using a recipe that had been passed down through generations, Olivia ended up cooking her way to a new position, preparing meals for patients.
"I was known for my biscuits, dressing and macaroni and cheese," she said proudly. "I loved my job."
After many years of dedicated service in the kitchen, Olivia was promoted to a supervisor position, which she held for 17 years. But it was not the one she retired from.
"I eventually gave it up and went back to cooking," she said. "Cooking is my passion, and
I missed it."
When asked about special moments over the years, Olivia was quick to reply. "I loved open house during the holidays. I loved seeing whole families come and enjoy my food. I truly loved what I did, but it was time [to retire]."
During her 43 years of cooking, Olivia prepared over 5.2 million meals, but insisted on instead recognizing those who served as her own personal mentors.
"I worked with Jay Nation, the administrator, for 17 years, and he was such an inspiration to me," she said. "I'll never forget him."
Olivia plans to spend her days in retirement helping her husband run a small business. Though she admits she'll continue cooking a little, too.