Working and serving

Bill Althaus
McDonald's general manager Lisa Patterson, left, and Elsie Douhenmeier work the pickup window at the restaurant at 1225 S. Noland Road in Independence. Douhenmeier - nicknamed "Mickey D" - has worked for McDonald's for 16 years, along with working with special-needs students in the Independence School District.

Elsie “Mickey D” Douhenmier is a people person, without people.

“I want someone to hug,” she jokingly pleads, before starting a recent shift at the McDonald’s located at 1225 S. Noland Road in Independence.

“I love to work the lobby, give hugs to my regular customers and greet everyone who comes in. It’s so special to have this opportunity to bring a smile or two to our customers, but in this age in COVID-19, we’re wearing masks and social distancing.”

“But, oh well, I’m going to make the best of it.”

Then she staffs the pickup window and brings a little sunshine to customers in need of a burger, fries and a friendly greeting.

Douhenmier, 79, has even earned a nickname, “Mickey D,” which combines her last initial with her “second home.” She is a vivid reminder of the importance of the elderly work force on National Senior Citizen Day, which is today.

Justin Kirn, the area McDonald’s supervisor, can’t help but smile when asked about his oldest employee.

“Oh my gosh, Elsie is one of the most amazing and positive people I have ever been around,” Kirn said.

“I feel like a better person because I have been around Elsie. And everyone we work with feel the same way. She is so energetic and enthusiastic and you should see her interact with our patrons – pre pandemic – they love her as much as we do.”

Lisa Patterson is the general manager at the McDonald’s Douhenmeier now calls home, and adds, “Everyone loves Elsie, especially little kids. When they come in and see Elsie they get so excited. And you should see what she does when the holidays come around – she gets up on a ladder and decorates this McDonald’s from floor to ceiling.”

When asked about the decorations, Douhenmeier brims with excitement.

“Oh, I have all the decorations at home for all the holidays,” she said. “And I decorate our store for all our high school employees who graduate. I get balloons and all the works, and everyone gets to enjoy it.”

While she excels at the pickup window, working in the food area or greeting customers in the lobby, her work at McDonald’s is actually Douhenmier’s second job.

In a normal school year, she would wake up at 5:45 a.m., and head to her Independence School District bus assignment, where she helps students with special needs enjoy a trouble-free ride to their schools. She is usually done around 8:30 or 9 a.m., heads home for a brief break and then does it all over again at 1:30.

“Well, I’m lucky I don’t need much sleep,” she said. “I love working with the children. When I retired from working at a bread company, I said I wanted to keep busy, and I am busy.”

“I recently had a physical and my doctor said, ‘Elsie, I don’t know what you are doing, but keep doing it because you are in great shape physically!’ So, I’m hoping to go back to work for the school district and I’ll always have my second job here at McDonald’s – this is really my second home, not my second job. And I love every minute I spend here.”

' … this is really my second home, not my second job. And I love every minute I spend here,' says Elsie Douhenmier, who works at the McDonald's at Noland and Fair in Independence.