The Payson Senior Center is having a party June 1. After that, there will be tears.
Lenice Lee, who has been the director of the Payson Senior Center for 18 years, is retiring Friday, and her friends and colleagues say she will be missed.
Her friend, Rhoda Stewart, president of the Senior Center Advisory Council, said the seniors will take Lee's absence hard at first.
"They'll probably say to the new director, 'Lenice wouldn't do it that way,' but that will all get better," Stewart said. "The new director is a real nice lady, and she'll do a good job."
But the new director, Marsha Cauley, has big shoes to fill.
Stewart said Lee has a gift for making people feel important.
"She knows every single person (at the center) and gives them all the biggest hugs," Stewart said. "Some of them would never get hugs if she weren't there. She's very outgoing and very loving."
Lee said it's important to show the seniors at the center love because they often feel emotionally neglected.
"They're so forgotten," she said. "But not to me they're like my family."
In addition to her caring heart, Lee is valued at the center for her organizational skills. She makes everything a success, Stewart said, including volunteer dinners, picnics, field trips and birthdays.
"That may not seem like a big deal," Stewart said, "but those events are everything to our seniors."
Lee's co-workers weren't surprised when she announced her retirement she's been the director of the senior center so long, she's become a senior citizen herself.
But one of the primary reasons for her decision was health. She was diagnosed with Bell's palsy last year, a stress-induced disorder that paralyzes the facial nerve and generally weakens the muscles on one side of the face.
"I don't eat lunch and I don't take breaks, so I wind up working very steadily," Lee said. "If you've got your health, you've got your wealth.
"I've seen a lot of people have money but bad health, and then they couldn't even enjoy being rich."
Lee said she's not sure yet how she will spend her retirement years, but before she makes any decisions, she said, she plans to get some rest if, that is, her 16 grandchildren will let her.
"I love babies so much," she said. "I have seven children, and I wanted more, but my husband said no. The seniors are so important to me, too, though.
"People have said, 'How can you deal with those grouchy old people?' But I've never seen it that way. They're all good to me."
And Lee has been good to them, Stewart said.