Viola Street is honored for her 100th birthday.
Brad Vest / The Commercial Appeal
Viola Street has been 100 years old for a week now.
She’s still not ready to take a break.
“My parents used to fuss at me for doing too much,” she said Wednesday at the cafe at the Memphis Botanic Garden. “There’s a lot to do.”
Viola, who has outlived her parents, three siblings, two husbands and just about everyone else on the planet, was being feted at the cafe by a dozen friends.
Like her, all of them are retired from Grahamwood School. All remain in awe of her energy and her, well, spirit.
“I’m retired and I don’t give a damn,” she said, repeating a bumper sticker she had on her car after she retired 25 years ago.
Viola was Grahamwood’s cafeteria manager for 31 years. She was East High’s cafeteria manager for 15 years before that.
That means she has spent more than half of her life doing other things.
She raised two sons and a daughter, who have given her five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
“My dad died when I was 16,” said Bobby Tribble, her middle child. “Our mom taught us how to take care of ourselves and how to work hard.”
Viola taught Sunday school for 39 years. She’s been a member of Highland Heights United Methodist Church since she was 7. The church celebrated its 100th birthday four years ago.
“She faithfully attends, and she always makes sure visitors sign the attendance book,” said the Rev. Rich Cook. “She worked with the men’s food pantry until she was 95.”
That’s when her granddaughter, Angela Eubanks, had to take her cars keys from her.
“She loves to go,” Eubanks said. “One summer she put 10,000 miles on her Suburban, driving us around out West.”
Viola has been to seven other countries and the Caribbean.
“I’ve been all over the world umpteen times. I mean all over the world,” she said. “But Alaska was my favorite. I hope to go back there one more time. People there will talk to you.”
Viola would talk to everyone who came into her cafeteria. She was more than the lunch lady. She was everyone’s mom.
“She’d see those first-graders on their first day of school, their chins trembling, wanting to go home,” said Sherry Moore, a retired Grahamwood teacher.
“She’d come around the counter and give them a hug and say, ‘What would you like to eat, honey? Would you like me to make you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?'”
What everyone — students, teachers and administrators — wanted her to make were cinnamon rolls.
“She’d make them for the teachers in the morning,” said Jane Cummiskey, a retired librarian. “On those days you…