After nearly three decades of service as the head cashier and unofficial matchmaker at the University of Hawaiʻi at ²Ñ¨¡²Ô´Ç²¹ , 95-year-old Eloise Luzader will retire on November 30.
“I¡¯m happy, but not that happy that I have to retire, but it¡¯s time for me to go after 29 years,” said Luzader. “After I retire, I¡¯m going to volunteer wherever I¡¯m needed. I want to donate my time. I would work for nothing just to be around people.”
Luzader began working at Gateway Caf¨¦ as a Sodexo employee in August 1994 after retiring from being a sales representative for numerous surfing merchandise brands. Her interactions with businesses, clients and customers as a sales representative solidified that she was a people person, and she knew that talking to students every day was something she wanted to do.
“It¡¯s my favorite part of working in Gateway Caf¨¦, being with the students, interacting with the students. I learn about them, and they learn about me, and that¡¯s the thing I¡¯ll miss the most when I retire,” said Luzader. “I call the students my grandbabies—I have a son, but no grandkids—so the students are all my grandbabies, and I love them all. I could be their grandmother, or even great-grandmother!”
Because of her love for her grandbabies, Luzader has no trouble remembering the names of the hundreds of students she sees each day at Gateway Caf¨¦.
“When I call each student by their name, it makes them feel important,” said Luzader. “They get surprised when I say their name, or even know it.”
While playfully teasing the students and having fun with them, she¡¯s built relationships that many of them cherish and are grateful for amid the stress of attending college. Luzader also ensures all of her grandbabies feel included, learning greetings from multiple languages so that international students can hear words from their native tongues while studying abroad.
In turn, students will give her lei, cards and photos to express their gratitude for her friendliness and kindness, or items from their cultures, such as embroidered Mexican blouses and batik sarong, or Indonesian wraps.
“I keep them all. I love looking at them—the gifts, the cards, the photos—and remembering each student and the memories I have with them,¡± Luzader shared.
Matchmaking at ²Ñ¨¡²Ô´Ç²¹
Because of Luzader¡¯s familiarity with so many faces, students will often confide in her when they are interested in a fellow student. Luzader will do some sleuthing and introduce them to one another if she feels it’s right.
Luzader has three success stories of couples she brought together that eventually got married. All three provide her with regular updates and visit her at Gateway Caf¨¦ when they are in Hawaiʻi.
“One of my grandbabies calls me his Hawaiʻi mother, and he¡¯s from South Korea but teaching at Kansai University in Osaka, and he still writes to me and tells me about his wife and his life,” said Luzader. “My other two couples are in the mainland—one in California and another in Pennsylvania—and they send me pictures of themselves and their kids. I like keeping in touch with them.”
Until she retires, patrons can find Luzader at Gateway Caf¨¦, Monday to Thursday, greeting everyone with a smile at the cash register—and don¡¯t be surprised if she knows your name.