Dec 2, 2008

Loss of a Wonderful Lady...

I recently completed an assignment at a manufacturing facility on Long Island.  From my first day on the job I noticed that the cafeteria was a very well run operation.  The food was wholesome and reasonably priced, the menu was varied and appealing, but these are the things you expect.  The difference in this cafeteria was the attitude of the staff.  Everyone was outgoing, friendly, and extremely proud of what they were doing.  It made all the difference in the world!

The manager was a little lady named Cheryl Fickeissen.  She was a bundle of energy and this energy spread to her entire staff.  She was one of those rare people who could call everyone "honey" or "sweetie" and it sounded natural.  Everyone was equal in Cheryl's world.  We were all part of her family and we were made to feel that way.  I commented to my boss one day, only half jokingly, "If we could capture the attitude of the cafeteria and spread it out, this company would have all its problems solved in a week!"

Cheryl was everywhere at once - checking the coffee urns, signing a receipt for deliveries, tending to the cash register.  But she always had time to be friendly.  She called everyone by name.  It was uncanny how many names she had on instant recall.  And she asked questions that made you know she cared about you.  "How's the gift shop doing?  Did you get home this weekend to be with your bride?"  And this attitude was contagious.  On the day before I left, a lady on the staff named Bonnie made her special potato salad as a going-away gift to me.  The cafeteria was a place you soon expected special treatment from and the staff never let you down.

A few weeks ago, we came to work on a Monday and Cheryl wasn't there.  Her daughter Stacy had stepped in to help out and explained that her mother was in the hospital with an apparent heart problem.  A few days later, the doctors inserted a couple of stents in some arteries and she was soon back at work, the same bundle of hospitality as ever.

I learned yesterday that Cheryl passed away last Thursday of a heart attack.  It hit me as if she were a member of my own family.  I will miss her, and I'm sure I have a lot of company.  Excellence is not reserved for the high and mighty.  Cheryl Fickeissen was living evidence that it exists in the most humble and unlikely places.  God grant you peace, Cheryl. †

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