St Helen’s Primary School in Ipswich says goodbye to long-serving dinner lady Maureen Voller

Maureen Voller with headteacher Clare Flintoff and some of the children.

Maureen Voller with headteacher Clare Flintoff and some of the children. - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

A “generous” and “patient” school dinner lady was served a surprise treat as she said her final farewell after 44 years on duty.

Maureen Voller was given a hero’s send-off at St Helen’s Primary School in Ipswich yesterday, with the whole school coming together for a retirement party in the playground.

Speeches were made by Mayor of Ipswich Roger Fern and headteacher Clare Flintoff, who revealed that the school canteen was to be renamed Voller’s Hall in the dinner lady’s honour.

Mrs Voller, 76, said: “It’s brilliant, lovely, I didn’t expect it at all.

“The little children were saying ‘you are Mrs Voller, we are going to do something special for you, but it’s a secret’, so I knew something was happening but I didn’t think it would be like this.

“I’m amazed really, I just see myself as a dinner lady, but I love working here with all the children.

“When they are grown up I see them in town and they still say hello and you just feel like you belong.”

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During her long career Mrs Voller said she had seen six headteachers and countless staff come and go.

She said the school had probably doubled in size since she started in 1972, but added that standards had stayed high.

Despite having the opportunity to retire at 60, Mrs Voller stayed on because of her unwavering love for the job.

Even now Mrs Voller seemed reluctant to throw in the towel.

“I will miss it all, working with the ladies and the children, but I feel if we are going to get a bad winter this year maybe I should stay at home because I have been slipping and sliding down my hill and hanging onto the hedge going to school,” she said. “So I think it’s the time I should stop.”

Mrs Voller said she was “honoured” to have the canteen named after her.

“It’s amazing, I didn’t think they would do that,” she added.

“I suppose my name will be there as long as the building will be there, it will be great.”

Pupils sat quietly in the playground as Mrs Voller was led outside by her family, unaware of the surprise that was waiting for her.

She was met with a huge cheer as the children, who were dressed in clothes representing the four decades of Mrs Voller’s career, created a walk-way for her towards the canteen, which was fixed with a special plaque.

Mrs Flintoff said the well-loved dinner lady had made an “amazing contribution” to the school and would be “sorely missed”.

“She’s a kind, generous, patient lady who has cared for generations of children at this school.

“I’m sure nobody will fill her shoes because she is a very special and unique lady.

“We will always remember her, we have named the canteen after her, which will be a legacy.

“It will always be called Voller Hall and hopefully for generations to come we will be telling the children why.”

Mrs Voller’s husband of 58 years, David, was at the celebration event along with some their children and grandchildren.

“She just loves the kids,” Mr Voller said. “She sees the adults in town and they say ‘you were my dinner lady’.

“She is recognised all the time, so they must think a lot of her.”

Mr Fern, who was headteacher at the school in the 1980s, handed Mrs Voller a special award in commemoration of her service.

“From those here now and those gone before, all of us remember her fondly,” he said.