MANKATO — Third-grade teacher Brian Eggersdorfer walked into the Roosevelt Elementary School office Thursday holding an astilbe for Betty Groth’s shade garden.
She’d been expecting his visit. Beginning 50 days ago, the countdown had begun for Groth’s retirement after 30 years at Roosevelt, 28 as the school secretary. Eggersdorfer, who started at Roosevelt about the same time as Groth, had been bringing her a gift every 10 days or so.
She’d received candy corn (she loves the stuff), rice crispy bars, fresh fruit, rice chips (a gluten-free delicacy) and wine. Today’s gift was the last, and it came with a touching card, photos from Groth’s retirement party and a very long hug.
It was a bittersweet day at Roosevelt school Thursday, the last day Groth would be found behind the desk in the office before retirement. She shed a few tears. But mostly she shined her signature smile.
“She’s the heart of the school,” Eggersdorfer said. “She’s something to everyone. If you’re celebrating, she celebrates with you. If you’re stressed, she’s confidence.”
Groth was raised on Record Street, she graduated from West and Mankato Commercial College, and she and her husband raised their two kids on Park Lane. The west side of Mankato has always been her home, so it was fitting that she came to work at Roosevelt in 1983.
For a couple of years she helped students with math and “color graphics” on very early Apple computer models. Then she became the school secretary, which was a very different job back then, she said.
“You were the secretary, you did attendance, you were the lunch lady, you were the nurse,” she said. “It was simpler times.”
Groth’s job became more streamlined over the years, and she became the face everyone expected to see in the office. Over the years she started seeing parents she had known as children bringing their kids to school there.