ENID, Okla. — After 39 years with Enid Public Schools, Tillie Sewell is retiring.
The 83-year-old's first day with the district was in August 1980, and her last was Wednesday, June 12, 2019.
Though all other after-school events were canceled or rescheduled due to extreme wind and rain, including the monthly school board meeting, she estimates 30 or so colleagues and friends braved the elements to attend her May farewell.
"I'm going to miss it," she said, adding not so much the work itself as the people she worked with, and the help she could offer on account of all her years.
For most of her career she served as secretary to the special education compliance coordinator, she said, a role where she learned a lot, because it asks a lot.
She spent much of her last weeks getting things ready for the stranger who will take her place.
"I'd just like to make sure everything is in order ... for whomever is taking is taking over my job," she said. "Don't know who it is, but I wish them well. It's a major undertaking."
When she arrived in Enid in 1974, there weren't too many Hispanics, not much opportunity to keep her bilingual skills sharp. That community has grown over the years, and often, Sewell has come in handy for some Enid newcomers.
"All the Hispanics knew that I was working there," she said. "Anytime they needed something for their children they would call me and I would help them out in whatever way."
As a colleague told her, a lot of knowledge would be walking out the door Wednesday.
Secretary was a second career for Sewell, and Enid a second home.
In Dallas she already had been in banking for 25 years, had a son in elementary school and a daughter near graduation. Her then-husband got a job offer in Enid, a promotion, and the family unit followed.
Her siblings all stayed in Dallas, and her kids and grand kids all ended up there, one way or another, as well. She's the only Sewell in Enid, she said.
"My sisters just keep saying, 'You need to come back, you need to come back,' but that's not really home anymore," she said. "Even though all my family is there ... it seems all my friends are here."
Her involvement in the community means plenty of people know her, she said. Sewell is a bridal coordinator at St. Francis Catholic Church, served on several board and committees, including the YMCA and the Salvation Army, and is starting her third year as AM Too AMBUCS president, she said.
Of all the work she has done, and effort invested into Enid, it's her time with AM Too AMBUCS that she is most proud of.
Ever since the women's AMBUCS chapter was founded, Sewell has been a part, she said. Members have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, dedicating scholarships to therapists in training, supplying modified bikes to the handicapped, and sending supplies to troops overseas, she said.
"I just like helping people," she said. "It gives you what our charter president calls 'the fuzzies,' ... that feeling you can only get when you've done something for someone."
"I feel very fortunate and blessed to be living here in Enid, because I really feel it's a welcoming community," she said. "I've enjoyed every bit of it and I really don't have any plans of moving away. I want to stay here as long at the good Lord allows me."