Culture | Greta Sowles
Frenchy poses for a photo with fan Laura Lambert.
The word “Frenchy” probably conjures an image of a lady swiping your ID card for meals and flirting with all of the boys behind you in line.
Nothing appeared to have changed at lunch on Thursday, Feb. 21. Frenchy was wearing a gray skirt and a purple sweater for “Purple Thursday,” and she was still flirting with all of the boys.
But something was different. That day Frenchy was not swiping cards, but rather, she was giving hugs, taking pictures and signing water bottles in a farewell celebration. After 12 years of service at Bethel, Charlotte “Frenchy” French is retiring.
Sodexo Manager Bob Schuchardt knew of Frenchy’s plan to retire last summer and started slowing down her schedule in preparation. She began working only the lunch shift in the fall of 2012 and officially retired in January, but Schuchardt knew that a Bethel icon like Frenchy needed a retirement party.
On Feb. 21,“Frenchy Day” in the Dining Center featured Frenchy’s favorite DC foods, personally signed water bottles, cake and ice cream, and hugs and pictures with Frenchy and her husband, Bob.
Charlotte French started working with Sodexo at North Central University, where she was mainly doing accounting and payroll. When North Central’s contract broke with Sodexo in 1990, Frenchy moved to Bethel. “She took a lot of pride in her office work. She would go to the bank every day until it became too much,“ said Dannette DeLaMatter, the Sodexo office administrator.
In more recent years, it would take Frenchy an hour to go to the bank on County Road E and back. That hour was extended on Friday, when the bank had free popcorn – Frenchy insisted on bringing some back for the entire staff.
Frenchy started at Bethel by running the “coffee cart” at the old CLC, which served as a type of concession stand for commuter students. She would sell coffee and pastries, and she loved getting to talk to all of the commuters. From there she went into the old Dining Center and then to the current Monson Dining Center.
Since retiring, Frenchy is enjoying having time to clean out her drawers and watch the Price is Right. DeLaMatter mentioned that Frenchy has completed only one drawer: her photo drawer.
In Frenchy’s farewell letter to the student body, she gave advice, including, “Keep God first in your life and seek His help when faced with challenges.” She ended with the phrase, “I love each and every one of you.”
DeLaMatter underlined that in planning this letter, Frenchy wanted the younger generation to understand that just saying hello to an old person would make their day. “She realized that she was certainly on a whole different playing field than the kids she was around, yet still trying to connect with them was a big deal to her,“ DeLaMatter said.
Frenchy will be dearly missed by many of the students and staff at Bethel.
“She was a mother to the students,” said Schuchardt. “We are definitely going to miss her.”
Although Frenchy may no longer be swiping cards at Bethel, her quotes and your stories will live on, helping us remember the icon that she is to the Bethel community.