LONG ISLAND, N.Y. – A waitress who has been serving up meals at a Long Island, New York diner for the past 43 years served her last meal this week.
Sylvia Smith started working at the Plainview Diner the day it opened in February 1973. She told Newsday that at 86 years old, it’s finally time to retire.
“I’d say a year ago, that’s when everything caught up with me. I used to be able to get up, feel energetic. Now I don’t. I don’t have the energy I used to have,” said Smith.
Saying goodbye won’t be easy, Smith explained.
“I had a close relationship with a lot of my customers. After 43 years, you get to know people. I was like family with them,” said Smith. “I’ll cry a little bit, but I’ll accept… that I had a good life. And I have a lot of people to thank for that.”
She has watched many of her customers grow up before her eyes. One customer, John Papavasilopoulos, threw Smith a surprise party for her 70th birthday. The two became close over the years. Smith attended his wedding and the christening for his firstborn son.
Papavasilopoulosalso also surprised her with a cruise for her and a friend to Mexico and Key West on her 70th birthday.
“I’d never been on a cruise before,” Smith told Newsday. “He got me an outside cabin. It was a beautiful gift.”
On her last day at the diner, the restaurant’s owners and the customers came together to throw her a retirement party. She said it was a bittersweet ending to a very rewarding career.
“When I go home sometimes, I just break down. My daughter, will come. She’ll said, ‘You alright Mommy?’ I’ll say, ‘I’m just having a happy cry. That’s all.'”