Lifestyle & Human Interest

Longtime Denny's Waitress of 44 Years Still Taking Orders at Age 80


Talk to plenty of workers about their careers, and you’ll learn most have one goal: retiring as soon as possible. That makes sense in one way.

Work is challenging, both mentally and physically, and you understand why people want a break. But work also gives our lives meaning.

There’s a reason why the Bible says, “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.” And perhaps that’s why you generally hear of people — and one Denny’s waitress in particular — remaining the in workforce longer.

The National Council on Aging revealed that approximately two-fifths of Americans over the age of 55 are working. So much for dreams of retirement, right?

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In fact, workers over the age of 65 outnumbered teen workers almost two to one. Hundreds of thousands of older workers find themselves discouraged by a lack of employment options.

But one longtime worker isn’t the least bit put off by her job prospects. In fact, she finds them fulfilling.

According to The Pantagraph, Maria Griffin didn’t always work at the Denny’s in Bloomington, Illinois. She was born in Bavaria, Germany, and lived there for much of her youth.

That changed, though, when she met Ronald “Big Red” Griffin, an American soldier stationed in West Germany. “My mother always said I told her, … ‘I’m going to marry a guy in uniform,’” she said.

And that was exactly what Griffin did. Ronald, who passed away 13 years ago, married Griffin in 1958 and they moved to the U.S. in 1959.

When Griffin and Ronald stopped at a Denny’s in Springfield to eat while traveling, their kind waitress told Griffin how wonderful it was to work for the company. That single interaction inspired Griffin to tell her husband, “if there is ever a Denny’s in Bloomington, I’m going to work for them.”

Not too many years after that, she was hired as a waitress at the Bloomington Denny’s before it even opened for business — and has been there ever since.

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For four decades, Griffin has been part of the morning shift at Denny’s, starting her day at 4:30 a.m. Over time, an authentic community has formed around the restaurant and her role in it.

“She is just the sweetest, caring, best waitress in the world,” Denny’s regular Richard Galbreath said. Indeed, Griffin has shown her care for others by visiting customers in their nursing homes when they stop coming in for breakfast.

Now 80 years old, she doesn’t have plans to stop any time soon. In fact, her doctor says she’s in prime health for her age.

“He just looks at me and smiles and says, ‘Maria, keep doing whatever you’re doing,’” Griffin noted. While she admitted she doesn’t know the secret to to her She said that the “secret” to her long-running career really isn’t a secret at all.

“Be on time. Smile. Treat the people the way you want to be treated,” she said.

“People ask me when I’m going to retire,” she added. “I tell them, ‘When I win the lottery or when I die.’”

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
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