McCrorey-Liston cafeteria named for Eugenia Wilson

BLAIR – More than a hundred people gathered on Friday in the McCrorey-Liston Cafeteria to honor Eugenia G. Wilson for her years of service in the school’s cafeteria.

School Principal Chandra Bell said Wilson “was the matriarch of the school.” She also recalled Wilson’s oft-repeated mantra – “It’s all about the children.”

Many of those children, now adults, returned on Friday to witness the naming of the cafeteria for Wilson who began her career as a Food Service worker at the school in 1966 and retired forty years later as the cafeteria’s supervisor. By all accounts, she was beloved beyond measure by the children she fed and by those she worked with at the school.

Eugenia Wilson accepts a plaque from Superintendent Dr. J.R. Green, recognizing the naming of the cafeteria after her. | Barbara Ball

In 1979, Wilson received a certification of completion from the National Institute for the Food Service Industry. She also received continuing education credits through Midlands Technical College, Johnson and Wales University and the University of South Carolina. In 1995, she was named Fairfield County Food Service Manager of the Year.

Bell said Wilson was known for making sure that the students had wholesome, balanced meals, and the students loved the delicious meals she prepared for them.

“But the students were not the only ones who loved her meals,” Bell said. “About noon, people from all over Fairfield County would start coming through the front door headed to the cafeteria – from VC Summer, from the doctors’ office down the road, our maintenance crew, lined up!”

Former student Rodney Gibson, like other speakers, recalled “the wonderful food Mrs. Wilson prepared for us – nice warm, creamy grits and fried chicken. But what I remember even more,” he  said turning to Wilson, “was your beautiful, kind smile and humble behavior that you showed us and instilled in us,” Gibson said.

“The pride she took in her cafeteria work was truly inspiring,” Sandra Conyers, a longtime teacher at the school, said. “I was constantly impressed with her work ethic. Her output was one of a kind. My room was right across the hall from the cafeteria, so you can imagine the wonderful aromas that seeped into my classroom about 10:30 or 11 every morning. No matter what Ms. Wilson and her staff prepared, it was always tasty, especially at holidays – fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, peach cobbler,” Conyers said. “She never disappointed.”

Wilson’s nephew, Brandon Henderson, now a college sophomore, recalled his first day of kindergarten at McCrorey-Liston.

“I knew that my Auntie ran that cafeteria back there,” Henderson said, smiling. “During Martin Luther King month in February, she would set up a table for everybody to sit at who had a birthday that month. She made sure I was at the front of the table…and that I had four chicken wings.”

The audience laughed.

Wilson’s daughter, Leslie, recalled her mother’s dedication to her work in the cafeteria, her co-workers and to the children she cooked for.

“She left the house at 5 in the morning, left us still in bed to be at work on time,” Leslie Wilson said. She said her mother and the other cafeteria ladies, also dedicated, arrived at the school before dark and didn’t leave until the end of the school day. It was a time when school meals were prepared from scratch.

“I have always been proud that my mom was a cafeteria worker,” Wilson said.

“Mom began cooking at the age of eight. She was the youngest girl of nine children. The others were working in the cotton fields, so as soon as Mom was old enough she was put in the kitchen cooking meals for the family,” Leslie Wilson said.

Wilson grew up in Blair and, as a teenager, boarded with families in Winnsboro so she could attend Fairfield High School. After high school, she met Aaron Wilson. They were married for 30 years until his death in 1980.

“Mom always cooked for the love of it. She didn’t want you messin’ with her pots and pans. And if she tells you this is the way she wants it done, then that’s the way she wants it done,” Leslie Wilson said, laughing. “My sister and I were not allowed to cook anything growing up except cornbread and biscuits because Mom said she didn’t have enough food to waste. I guess she didn’t think we could mess up cornbread and biscuits,” she said.

Leslie Wilson said her mother’s contribution was one of the things that made the school special and recalled her own glory days at McCrory-Liston.

“Later in life when I’d say there were only 60 students in my graduating class. They’d say, ‘Great!’ and I’d say, ‘Yeah, it was a small, private school,’” she said as the audience laughed and applauded. “Because that’s what it seemed like.”

After family members took turns speaking and presenting flowers to Wilson, Superintendent Dr. J. R. Green announced that a special plaque emblazoned with ‘The Eugenia G. Wilson Cafeteria’ would be attached to the wall next to a door into the cafeteria. He also presented Wilson with a scrapbook with messages from former students and memorabilia from Wilson’s years at the school.

Wilson then thanked the audience for their attendance and shared several stories from her years at the school – some poignant, others funny and all heartwarming.

“I loved the time I worked here at McCrorey-Liston. I loved cooking. I loved my work in the cafeteria, and I loved the children. Everything I did was for them,” Wilson said. “It was all about the children.”

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