At 90, school employee Elvira Lindsay still calls the school playground home

April 28, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Elvira Lindsay (left) enjoys her surprise 90th birthday party with the staff of Issaquah Valley Elementary School on April 15, as her staff friend of 30 years, Educational Assistant Saundra Hirt, stands behind her. By Greg Farrar

Elvira Lindsay (left) enjoys her surprise 90th birthday party with the staff of Issaquah Valley Elementary School on April 15, as her staff friend of 30 years, Educational Assistant Saundra Hirt, stands behind her. By Greg Farrar

When Elvira Lindsay stepped in from recess at Issaquah Valley Elementary School on April 15, she wasn’t expecting a room full of partygoers. 

“I was surely surprised,” she said, laughing. “I couldn’t believe it when I opened the door.”  

The Issaquah Valley community helped her celebrate her 90th birthday by bringing together some of the people she’s known the longest — her students and colleagues.Lindsay has worked at the school since it was mere portable classrooms near where the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank now stands, according to Nona Wright, the school’s program coordinator. She earned $2 an hour back then.

Lindsay started her career as a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in Oregon.

When she moved to Issaquah in 1945, she began working as an educational assistant at Issaquah Valley in the mid ’60s. She also raised four children here with her husband Earl Lindsay. 

Despite all the hustle and bustle as a parent and working woman, Lindsay didn’t officially retire from the district until 2006. 

But after more than 41 years, she still heads to work at the school five days a week, rotating shifts from the playground’s ball checkout room at every recess and in the school’s library. 

“It’s just natural,” she said. “I’ve been doing it all my life and I do it because I want to and I enjoy it.”

“She volunteers in the library and she’s up and down every day,” said Jennifer Ritchie, the school’s librarian. “She even puts more books away than I do. She’s an amazing person.

“I don’t ever recall her being sick, either,” she added.

“A few years ago, she broke her hip and she wasn’t out for too long even then,” said Shari Pettigrove, a former student from the late ’70s who has kept in touch. 

Lindsay was a stable force in Pettigrove’s life during elementary school. 

“My parents divorced and there were a lot of things going on, but she was always there with a smile,” Pettigrove said. “She always told me to believe in myself and to work hard, and good things will happen.”

Lindsay’s impact on Pettigrove was so great that Pettigrove said she considers Lindsay one of her best friends.

“She still sends me a birthday card every year,” Lindsay said, saying the tradition started when Pettigrove was still in school.

“I don’t know what the school would do without her if she ever truly retires,” Pettigrove added.

As a gift for her hard work, the students made her a gigantic card on butcher paper, which covered the height of a full 9-foot wall in the school. Her colleagues also made her a memory book, including photos of her family and the school’s children through the years, and collected letters, cards and stories from students and fellow staff members, past and present. They presented her with the book while she cut slices of cake at her party. 

“She is just a legend and is the only one here from the very beginning,” Wright said. “She’s seen lots of principals, teachers and students come through, but Elvira is still here caring for all of us.” 

Lindsay said she doesn’t have plans to stop her work anytime soon.

“I’ll keep going as long as I can, as long as I’m able to,” she said, smiling. “I like it and it keeps me going.”

Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com. 

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