“I can't believe you're leaving!”

“I can't believe you're leaving!”

This was Marjorie Bull's reaction to the news that Lessie Bennett was retiring from St. Luke's Nursing Center. To some of the residents at the center, Bennett's service in the beauty shop has been all they've ever known since they've lived there. In Marjorie's case, seven years.

“This is one of my favorites,” Lessie said with a smile as she helped Marjorie lean back to soak her hair in the sink.

Lessie has spent the last 38 years in the center in the same little room.

“When I first started this was the end of the building,” she said, pointing at the wall. “Of course then, the center had only been here three years … I've enjoyed my time here. I've met a lot of wonderful people – I'll miss it.”

St. Luke's Administrator Sue Joslin said Lessie has most definably made an impression with everyone.

“We're going to miss her,” Joslin said. “I've had the privilege of working with her for 37 years. She started here, then I started a few months later. She has made a difference in a lot of people's lives.”

Dec. 27 will be Lessie's last day, but she said she'll return to visit her loyal patrons. Like, Jenny Leek.
“This is one of my favorites,” Lessie said, again, helping Jenny into the shop's chair.

“I come over here whenever I get a chance,” Jenny said. “She does a good job for me and everyone else here. Everyone asks me where I get my hair fixed, and I say here – It's not hard to find … I get lots of compliments on her work.”

After Lessie's husband, Bob, passed away 19 years ago, she kept her three-day-a-week routine.
“I didn't know what else to do but keep working,” she said.

They were married 42 years, moving to Carthage in 1965 from Pittsburg, Kan. Originally, Bob was from Myrtle, Mo., and Lessie is from Doniphan, Mo.

“He always got a kick of telling people that,” Lessie said. “Do you know where those places are? They're not well-known places.”

Before the beauty shop in the nursing center, Lessie worked for 21 years in the lunchroom at Columbian Elementary School. And for several years, she worked in the Beauty Box in downtown Carthage.

“Once in a while a former student will recognize me from (Columbian) there,” Lessie said with a laugh. “I guess I don't change much and they do!”

Lessie and Bob had three children: Van, of Carthage; Joni, of Blue Springs; and Marcy, of Springfield, Mo. Now Lessie has eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Lessie says she plans on reading, quilting and walking outside in the summer.