McDonald’s on Seymour’s east side has been serving Big Macs, Egg McMuffins, McChickens and other customer favorites for decades, and one employee has had plenty of time to become familiar with the restaurant, its menu and those customers.
On Monday, 83-year-old Geraldine “Jerry” VonDielingen celebrated her 50th year of work at that restaurant at 913 E. Tipton St.
When she arrived to work, she was greeted with two cakes featuring Ronald McDonald, a bouquet of red and yellow roses and balloons.
Her first day at the restaurant was Sept. 5, 1972, and she was tasked with making french fries that day. Now, she can be found at the front register most mornings.
Both McDonald’s locations in Seymour are owned and operated by Michael Stieglitz of GBS Restaurants, who purchased them in April.
Joann Morgan, director of people initiatives and development for GBS Restaurants, said VonDielingen is a perfect employee and has hardly missed any work during her five decades at the restaurant.
“If we had a model employee, she would be it,” Morgan said. “She always puts her customers first, and we are so proud of her.”
The idea of having a party for VonDielingen, who grew up in the Reddington area and still lives there, has been in the works for a while, Morgan said.
After graduating from high school, VonDielingen married Robert “Buck” VonDielingen and moved to Washington state with her husband because he had enlisted in the U.S. Army. It was the only time she has ever lived outside of Jackson County. They eventually moved back to the Seymour area when he left the service. He passed away in March 2010.
The idea of working at McDonald’s appealed to her because she already had experience working as a carhop and at another restaurant in Seymour and could get hours that would allow her enough time to raise her four children.
Her starting wage at McDonald’s was $1.90 per hour.
The original McDonald’s building in Seymour was built nine months before she started, she said.
VonDielingen gave two key pieces of advice when reflecting on her 50 years of work: Treat customers the same way you want to be treated and show up on time.
“I do what I’m supposed to do and help new ones that are coming in,” she said. “But some of them don’t want to listen.”
Madeline Scales said she has been married to VonDielingen’s grandson for nearly 20 years and has worked with her at McDonald’s for 17 years.
She said VonDielingen was inspiring to her because of her work ethic, personality and longevity.
“I hope I’m like that when I’m her age,” she said.
If there was anything Scales said she had learned from VonDielingen in the workplace, it was being “very patient.”
“She is always so kind, tells people to come back and greets people by their names,” Scales said.
One of the largest physical changes that VonDielingen said she has seen at McDonald’s was the addition of an indoor play area in 2019.
She said she loves working with children and working at birthday parties.
“They’re just humans like you or like me,” she said. “The only difference is that they’re little.”
Erin Ikerd, a granddaughter to VonDielingen, said she was amazed at how long her grandmother has worked at McDonald’s.
“It’s amazing,” she said, “Who works at McDonald’s for 50 years? I mean, it’s just unbelievable. That’s longer than I’ve been alive.”
Her favorite thing about VonDielingen, she said, is how kind she is.
“Grandma loves everybody,” she said. “She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body.”
While there have been a plethora of changes to the Tipton Street McDonald’s over the years, VonDielingen said the building doesn’t seem that different to her from when she first started working there.
Her favorite item on McDonald’s menu changes, but currently, its Chicken McNuggets. She said she typically eats them with ranch or barbecue sauce.
Another celebration is planned for VonDielingen on Monday at McDonald’s at 9 a.m.