Co-Workers Host Surprise “Coffee Tailgate” Retirement Celebration
The countdown to Mary Ann Davila’s final days working for Robbinsdale Area Schools were just plain odd.
As attention turned to slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, workplaces everywhere started to change. More coworkers began to work from home. The Educational Service Center became a quieter place.
Yet Davila was still coming in, counting down the days until her retirement, crossing off tasks and training co-workers.
“I knew I wouldn’t have the opportunity to say goodbye to many people,” said Davila, who had worked for the district for 22 years. “Not in a million years did I think this is how it would be for my last few days.”
Davila started working in the office at Meadow Lake Elementary in 1998. She went on to work in the district’s middle schools, Armstrong High School, the business office for Adventure Club and student services at the district’s office. She loved working with families and knew she would miss that special connection with both the district’s families and her coworkers the most.
“She is one of the kindest people to work with,” said Kelley Sabako, who has worked with Davila for the past two years and was helping plan Davila’s retirement party.
They had already booked a space at Pub 42, picked a menu and even printed invitations. All of that was on hold, but coworkers didn’t want Davila’s last day to go by unnoticed.
“I emailed a bunch of people and said we need to do something,” said Sabako.
So Sabako and her coworkers decided to throw a surprise coffee tailgate. On Davila’s last day, cars lined up in a circle and staff used cones to measure where people could sit and sip coffee at a safe distance. Some coworkers had their children make “Happy Retirement” signs to the lady they affectionately called “Grandma Mary Ann.”
The superintendent sat in his car and prepared to honk his horn. When Davila came down at the request of a coworker to pick something up, she couldn’t have been more surprised.
“I heard some horns honking and I turned and saw a big circle of cars,” remembers Davila. “I took off running while they honked and cheered. I did a happy dance and ran around the circle giving virtual hugs.”
The dozen or so employees sat and talked for a few moments before dispersing. They do plan to gather again for a traditional retirement party when they can. But the surprise couldn’t have gone better.
“It brought a tear to my eye,” said Sabako. “It was so well deserved that she was excited and surprised and had something positive on her last day.”
Davila says the thoughtful gesture is the perfect cap on her career at Robbinsdale Area Schools.
“The highlight always falls back to the friends I’ve made,” said Davila. “Working together and serving families was truly a blessing in my life. That collective spirit of loving and caring is what gets us through these times.”