SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — If you’ve been to the Sioux City Olive Garden in the last decade, you might’ve seen Audrey Kennedy.
A great-grandmother, greeting every guest with a smile and making sure the place is tidy and welcoming, for all people. Even after suffering serious medical issues.
“I like everything neat and tidy,” said Kennedy. “I can’t stand anything on the floor. I feel that when people come here, that it should be a good feeling for them. If they wanted to stay home and look at a messy floor, they could probably do that. But if you’re going to go out and spend your hard-earned money for dinner, I want it to be nice.”
“I was a director with Mary Kay Cosmetics for 20 years. I got a little disenchanted and I went into real estate and did that for 20 years. I’m a longevity person. Then my husband was ill, and I took care of him in home. After he passed away, I thought, ‘There’s no way I can go back to real estate. It’s too stressful.’ So, I came out here to apply for a job.”
‘Here’ is the Olive Garden, where Kennedy does just about everything, but she can still remember her interview, almost 11 years ago now, like it was yesterday.
“And let’s face it, I was in my late 70’s already then. After a couple interviews, she was struggling. I said, ‘You know what, how about if we do this. How about if I come in and work for a couple of days, and you can critic and see if I’m fulfilling what you want, and we’ll go from there,'” said Kennedy. “Well, the first night that I was here, her husband was out in the vestibule, which I didn’t know, he went back to her, her name was Theresa, and said, ‘I want you to know, the best thing you ever did was hire Audrey.’ So that’s how it started.”
But it hasn’t always been easy to continue and cancer treatments robbed Kennedy of her hearing.
“I’ve had cancer twice. I’ve had a mastectomy. I didn’t have to have chemotherapy with that. I had colon cancer and that was six months of chemotherapy. Of all the things they said could be a side effect, it was never mentioned, so I was not prepared for it,” said Kennedy.
But coming to work each day has been a highlight and seeing new faces she said is the best part.
“That’s my favorite part, it’s people. That’s why the hearing loss is so kind of devastating actually. I wish the public was a little more educated about hearing loss, but they’re not,” said Kennedy.
So what can the average person do when they meet someone with hearing loss?
“When people know that someone is hearing impaired, look at them, speak clearly, speak slowly, and if they asked to have it repeated, don’t get upset. It’s nothing intentional.”
Audrey intends to work for a while longer.
“Actually, I plan to work until I’m 90,” Kennedy revealed. “Some people are a little hesitant to say their age. I’m proud of my age. I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot. I have three children that I worship. They all live here in town; how many mothers get that? I live alone, they spend a lot of time with me.”
“My daughter got pins for me which helps some. And I just tell people right away. I’m very hearing impaired. So, if you look at me, and speak, that’s the thing, people talk so fast and mumble,” said Kennedy.
If you do see her, she says, be sure to say hello and you might be treated to a special conversation, and maybe even a hug.