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'This has been my family': 81-year-old McDonald's employee celebrated for 42 years of service at Sumter restaurant

Sumter resident Judy Lessar has been working at the Broad Street McDonalds since 1981. Now at 81-years-old, her community is celebrating her work anniversary.

SUMTER, S.C. — A Sumter woman is celebrating 42 years of greeting customers at the Sumter McDonald's on Broad Street.

"Like a mailman, whether snow or sleet, I came to McDonald's," 81-year-old Judy Lessar reflected. "I’ve been a widow now for 18 years, so this has been my family."

Lessar started out planning birthday parties for the fast food restaurant. Now, she greets customers at the register every morning.

From her coworkers to customers, Lessar has made lifelong friends starting in 1981.

"Ms. Judy’s been here forever!" longtime customer Kenneth Floyd shared. "She’s so friendly and easy to get along with. She’s just a beautiful person."

Lessar even has regular customers like the Barkley’s that come in to see her "probably about every week. Sometimes two or three times a week or maybe more," Billie Barkley explained.

"She has a beautiful smile," customer Rosalie Price added. "When we walk in the door, we just wave at her and she just smiles."

Her smile is especially bright after her friends and family came to celebrate her on Friday. The restaurant has been collecting letters of appreciation for weeks, which they gave to Lessar along with balloons and cake.

"I don’t do a lot of things like I used to, but they say ‘That’s okay we want you to be here.’ So that makes me happy," Lessar smiled. "Many people say, ‘Well, why do you still work?’ I say, ‘It isn’t just for the money, but I see God at work here.' Everyday I see good acts, so that makes me happy too."

Not only does seeing the customers make her happy, but Lessar tells me she appreciates her coworkers.

"I keep up with the times. The crew keeps me going," Lessar told me. "They keep me up on the music and try to keep me up on technology, but that’s a little hard."

At the same time, Lessar tells me teaches her younger coworkers a lesson when she can.

"I try to keep them enthused, you know, when they come in and everything, but some of them come in not so happy," she laughed. "I say ‘You gotta smile, 'cuz people are looking for smiles."

At 81-years-old, she doesn’t plan to quit anytime soon. Lessar remembers seeing a story years ago about a woman who worked until she was 90.

"And I told my husband at that time, I said, ‘That’s what I’m gonna do! I’m gonna wait, work to McDonald's 'til I’m 90."

She even has the Ronald McDonald statue taken down from the restaurant displayed on her front porch. 

A mailbox for letters of appreciation will stay up in the Sumter McDonald's on Broad Street through the month. Anyone who wants to add a note can stop by and drop it off.

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