Union students probably have noticed a sweet woman working in the cafeteria who happens to look a lot like the school counselor, Lorie Escobar. Maybe, if you were having an especially hard week, she might’ve paid for your food. She might have laughed about something with you another day, or been a particularly good listener as you told her about your frustrations with a certain class.
This is Annie Escobar, the office manager and head cashier for the college cafeteria. She’s someone much cared for by the students and staff who know her, and has been an example of diligence, compassion, and love at Union for 33 years. Now, after so many years of serving Union with her whole heart, she’s retiring.
The Work of a Lifetime
“She’s probably one of the most balanced people I know,” Lorie Escobar said. Annie’s her mom, and she’s just as good of a person at home as she is in the cafeteria. “What you see is what you get. My mom’s pretty transparent. So she’s the same, she’s outgoing. She says she’s shy, but she’s not. She’s a people person, and she really just has a heart for friendships and for helping people.”
When Lorie came to Union to work on her college degree, she saw Annie in the workplace very often—working the cash register and chatting with students as they purchased their food. “She tends to treat students as if they’re her kids,” Lorie said, smiling. “When students haven’t had money for food, she’d buy them food. If she saw they had to stay for Christmas, she’d make sure they had a Christmas present.”
Annie loves the students here very much. “That’s why we’re here,” she laughed. “You become their mentor, you become their away-from-home mom or dad, depending on the situation.”
She and her coworkers have strived to be close to the students and pray for them. Annie often prayed for her student workers, staying attentive to their needs during tough times. “It was extremely encouraging, and it reminded me to continue to take everything to God,” said student worker Vanessa Caylor, remembering how Annie would pray for her and encourage her as she worked through her elementary education courses. “When I was anxious about teaching, she would remind me that I’ve been preparing for this, so it would be fine. She was right, but it’s good to be reminded of that sometimes.”
“I thought I would regret working every Sunday morning, but Annie made me feel welcomed and made sure that I had fun before I left,” Decli Silitonga, a nursing major, said. “She would always have paperwork to do in her office, but despite that she never failed to check on me whenever I needed help. Whenever an employee was absent she never hesitated to cover for them.” Annie strived to connect with her student workers, engaging and instructing them with a steady hand. She always tried to understand their perspectives and experiences. Decli continued, “The students seem to really love her, and from my perspective, she seems to cherish each one of them.”
Now, as Annie retires, she’ll be missing her coworkers and the students she’s grown so fond of. “It makes me sad,” she said, “but I know that I’m not gonna be away forever. I’ll come back and visit my coworkers.”
“It’s hard to sum up in words the work of a lifetime,” Peter Blankenship, Union’s food services director, said. “I know the college and the students and the people of Union College mean a lot to her, and she in turn means a lot to them.”
Peter has worked with Annie for the thirteen years he’s been at Union. “When I first came here, she was the one I relied on for information, for history, for perspective,” he said. Annie, having been at the school for three decades, has a deep understanding of the history of Union Market. She’s a steady hand with a keen sense of perspective, and she’s advised Peter for many years. “She’s been a constant at Union Market for all these years. People still stop in today—who went to school here a long time ago—just to say ‘hi.’ She has definitely touched people’s lives, and she’s a face that has been long remembered and will be missed.”
Annie plans on joining Juan, her husband of 51 years, in retirement. “I wish I could give a few more years, but I think I’d rather do something else now, you know, at home,” Annie said. Juan has already been retired for thirteen years without her, and she wants to spend more time with him. She speaks fondly of Juan, about how he’s a quiet, loving man. “They’re really good friends, they laugh a lot together, I’ve never really ever heard them argue,” Lorie said, smiling. They provided Lorie and her brother, Johnny, with a great example of what Lorie describes as a “friendship-marriage.”
Juan and Annie plan on taking trips to visit her sisters in Oregon and his family in Texas, as well as spending more time with their two grandchildren. “They’ve just kind of opened up another person in me,” she said. Her eyes light up when she speaks of her grandkids.
As she leaves, Annie has one final thing to say: “Our mission here is to show our young people Christ. To show having that spirit of Christianity in our lives, and to be able to share it with others.” She’ll miss her coworkers, but she has lived a fulfilled life at Union. “I have enjoyed it, I have truly, truly enjoyed it. No regrets.”
by Maria Kercher, senior communication major