‘Like grandma was cooking': Virginia town celebrates former cafeteria manager's 100th birthday

Helen Cook made school meals for 50 years in Lincoln, Virginia

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It's been years since Helen Cook has made school lunches, but the small town of Lincoln, Virginia, hasn't forgotten. They celebrated Cook's 100th birthday over the weekend and reminisced about her cooking that nourished three generations of children.

Cook was the cafeteria manager for schools in Lincoln for 50 years and spent most of that time working at Lincoln Elementary School.

She started cooking at the school in 1941, and made everything from scratch.

"I would carry my dough in a pan, in a kettle, and made my rolls when I got to the school and then everything there was homemade," she said.

Later, Cook's family moved into a house right next door to Lincoln Elementary.

"I loved children and my motto here was service to others," she said.

Her former students remembered how Cook fed both body and soul with her kindness and caring.

"I just remember never being hungry," former Lincoln Elementary student Jacqui Jen said. "It felt like your grandma was cooking for you, you know."

Spaghetti was one of Cook's specialties.

"…and Mom had comfort foods that were wonderful, and so her cooking was so good. She just captured the hearts of everyone," Cook's daughter, Tracy Dillon, said.

Cook's energy has become almost as legendary as her food. She just got her driver’s license renewed and mows her own yard.

"Just her work ethic and positive attitude and her faith. She’s just an inspiration to everyone here at Lincoln," Lincoln Elementary School Principal David Michener said.

During the party, the school gave her a unique gift: an enormous antique rolling pin they discovered that was surely used to make those homemade rolls.

"You know I have never, never been afraid, but right now, don’t come in my door," she joked after opening the huge rolling pin.

It appeared most of the town was there to celebrate and sing "Happy Birthday" to her.

"This is my home, this school. It will always be my love," she said.

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