When she began working in the kitchen at Mount Saint Joseph in October 1989, part of Elaine Foster’s job was taking the meal trays to Ursuline Sisters in the infirmary who could not come to the dining room. The infirmary in those days was in Lourdes Hall.
“It’s how I got to know a lot of the Sisters,” she said.
After 34 years, Elaine completed her final day of working at the Mount on Nov. 1, 2023. Part of her responsibilities for the past several years in housekeeping has been cleaning those same floors in Lourdes Hall, which have since been renovated into offices.
Elaine was the third longest tenured employee working at the Mount when she retired, behind only the Stelmach couple – Mike (45 years) and Charlotte (43 years). Rachel Phillips, who serves in Human Resources, now moves up to third in seniority, with 27 years of service.
“I’ll miss seeing the Sisters the most, and my fellow workers,” Elaine said.
Elaine was joined by numerous aunts, siblings and extended family for her farewell luncheon on Nov. 1, which followed the All Saints Day Mass. Dee Dee Jackson, director of Human Resources at the Mount, presented Elaine with a gift card, and everyone enjoyed a piece of retirement cake.
Elaine grew up a little more than three miles from Maple Mount, and graduated from Mount Saint Joseph Academy in 1977, the same year as current Sister Larraine Lauter. She worked for Carharrt in McLean County until 1989, when her father had a heart attack, and her mother wanted Elaine to be closer. Elaine and her husband, Terry, moved near her parents and she began a job in the diet kitchen on Oct. 14, 1989. The diet kitchen was where the meals were prepared for the Sisters on restricted diets in the infirmary.
One of her most memorable co-workers was Genevieve Stelmach, who, along with her husband Stanislaus, had emigrated from Poland in 1950 and lived and worked at Maple Mount the rest of their lives. (Mike Stelmach is their youngest son.) Genevieve Stelmach was renowned for her bread and rolls.
“On my first day working in the kitchen, it was my job to slice Mrs. Stelmach’s bread,” Elaine said. “She made all these breads and desserts, but she wouldn’t tell anyone how she did it. I told her, ‘Mrs. Stelmach, you need to teach someone what you do. I’d be happy to learn.’ She said, ‘I not teach you, you take my job.’ I really liked her, she was so funny,” Elaine said.
“Mr. Stelmach was such a jolly man,” Elaine said. “He would bring the meat over from the slaughterhouse, and when Mrs. Stelmach would say something funny, he would laugh like Santa Claus.”
“Sister Joseph Emma (Morris) was my supervisor, I loved her,” Elaine said. “She and my mom grew up together.”
The diet kitchen was eventually merged with the main kitchen. When Merritt Hobbs became director of the dining room at the Retreat Center, he urged Elaine to take the housekeeping job there, which she did in 1998.
“I really liked the years at the Center,” Elaine said. “I met so many different people and learned about the subjects they were discussing. And the staff there were all good people.”
Elaine doesn’t have any big plans for her retirement. Her daughter Samantha works in Owensboro, and daughter Leslie works in Lexington, so she will have more time to spend with them. She has two elderly aunts who have no children, so she expects to help her sister-in-law, former employee Audrey Clouse, in caring for them.
“I’ve got some jigsaw puzzles I’ve been wanting to do. They are Currier & Ives farm scenes,” Elaine said. “I used to do puzzles with my mom, that was a family gift.”