Through the years, the faces changed: administrators and teachers, the thousands of students, all walking the halls of Desert Hills Middle School.
But one thing remained constant. Make that two.
Sherry Roueché and LaRee Fuller would always be there to serve lunch. Until now.
After working at the school district for more than 30 years, the two women are hanging up their aprons and putting down their serving spoons.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Tri-City Herald
Roueché started at the school in 1983, six years after the 10th Place facility was built. Fuller joined her two years later. The pair grew to be like sisters, and have dozens of stories to share.
Like the time Roueché and Fuller moved a pan full of nacho cheese, enough to feed roughly 100 students, across the Desert Hills campus to where the students were eating.
Roueché was wearing new blue suede shoes, when the pan slipped, and spilled across her new shoes.
She turned to Fuller, and said, “This isn’t good ... My shoes are destroyed.”
And they laughed about it.
“There have been numerous incidents where you have to laugh at,” she said. “It doesn’t do any good to do anything else.”
Fuller chuckled when she remembered the untold numbers of rags and mops they used to clean the cheese off the floor.
“We always made work fun,” she said. “That’s what is important, is that you have fun at your job. ... We always made sure we had fun at our job.”
We always made work fun. That’s what is important, is that you have fun at your job. ... We always made sure we had fun at our job.
LaRee Fuller, Chinook lunch lady
When the school district built a new Desert Hills building, the pair made the difficult decision to stay as it became Chinook.
“That’s why we chose to stay with the building and close it down,” Roueché said. “We had a connection with it.”
Fuller wasn’t going to leave without her friend, she said.
“I said, ‘If you’re staying, then I’m staying,’ We had a good thing going,” Fuller said.
Among all of the things they shared was their love of working with middle school students. An age when most of the students are transitioning from children to young adults, Roueché said, and they taught her a lot.
“We worked there because of the kids,” Fuller said. “It was always a challenge to bring that kid around ... so he was a happy kid when he came into your line.”
The same children often found them years later. The two women said they can’t go anywhere without hearing someone call out, or have people approach them and comment that they look familiar.
When they remind them they were their middle school lunch ladies, it clicks.
We have thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed this school and this staff, and they have made us so welcome. ... I’ve made numerous, numerous friends, and you never say goodbye, because you always see them again.
Sherry Roueché, Chinook lunch lady
Recently, Fuller and a former student struck up a conversation at a fast food restaurant.
As the conversation went on, the former student told Fuller he was going to buy her lunch because of her kindness during those three years.
The women’s friendship extends outside school grounds. They’ve traveled to Las Vegas and Washington, D.C., with each other. They’ve attended their children’s sporting events together. And with husbands who worked in construction, they supported each other when their husbands had to be out of town on projects.
Now with their children grown, Roueché, 66, and Fuller, 65, are moving into retirement.
“It’s going to be different,” Roueché said. “We have thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed this school and this staff, and they have made us so welcome. ... I’ve made numerous, numerous friends, and you never say goodbye, because you always see them again.”