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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Millie Ramsey is a familiar face at the Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken on West State Boulevard, greeting customers the past 13 years.

  • Like many others, Lee's diner David Grabill receives a hug from Millie during a recent visit.

  • Milliespeaks with Jim Deathe while taking his plate. At 82, Millie says she works because she wants to.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Millie Ramsey, hostess at Lee's Famous Recipe, wipes down the tables during lunch.

Sunday, February 03, 2019 1:00 am

senior portrait

Lee's most famous employee

Millie Ramsey, 82, enjoys spreading love, kindness

TERRI RICHARDSON | The Journal Gazette

Senior portrait

This once-a-month feature profiles northeast Indiana residents who are age 70 and older. If you would like to submit a senior for possible publication, email Terri Richardson at trich@jg.net.

Millie walks up to a customer in the dining room of Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken on West State Boulevard and pretends to grab a potato wedge from his plate. The customer tells her she can have one. She starts to laugh, “I'm picking on you.”

As she moves around the small dining room, she yells out to diners, “Good to see y'all.” To others, the 4-foot, 6-inch 82-year-old reaches up to give them a hug.

There's no shortage of hugs or hellos from Millie when you dine at Lee's. 

Her full name is Millie Ramsey, (“When I was in real trouble, they called Mildred,” she laughs.), but everyone knows her as Millie.

Millie tries her best to talk to everyone and makes sure the regulars know they are loved.

“I'm just thankful I can still get around,” she says. She had hip surgery and now deals with tendinitis in her knees.

But she is still working – every day – Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to about 3:30 or 4 p.m.

She has been at Lee's 13 years, having come back in March after her surgery.

How she came to work at Lee's is simple – she was bored.

Millie had retired from Brotherhood Mutual after 22 years. She says she prayed to God to give her a job where she can do his work. It wasn't too long after that she saw a hiring sign at the restaurant she ate at quite regularly – Lee's. Since she ate there so often, many of the people already knew her.

When they hired her, Millie says she was told her job was to talk to the customers and keep the dining room clean. And that's just what she does.

“I don't have to,” she says of working at Lee's, “I want to.”

Millie says she believes she is being used by God to show love and kindness to others. “These customers will tell you they're my family,” she says.

Millie was born in West Virginia. Her father was a coal miner and died of black lung, like many during that era. She also had a brother. The siblings were raised with three cousins by her aunt and uncle.

Millie was raised on a farm and started washing pots and pans while standing on a box to reach the sink, she says. She began baby-sitting at age 10 to earn extra money. She was paid 30 cents an hour.

She came to Fort Wayne in 1956 at the urging of a girlfriend who she had gone to business college with. Millie says when she got off the Greyhound bus in downtown Fort Wayne, she yelled, “Two streets!” Back home, there was only one.

Millie got a job as a waitress, later becoming a typist for Transport Motors.

She met her husband in Fort Wayne. After he died of a heart attack, she was left with two sons to raise herself. 

Her weekends are spent with one of her sons, which includes church on Sunday. She has attended Blackhawk Baptist Church more than 20 years.

After work, Millie likes to go home to her 15-year-old dachshund named Precious, where they curl up on the couch and watch the news, followed by “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy.” In the warmer months, she likes to sit outside on her swing.

Although she works to stay busy, the people are her favorite at Lee's, she says. She doesn't have any plans to stop working. “As long as the Lord gives me health,” she says.

And if you do stop by for some chicken and maybe a biscuit or two, you'll more than likely find Millie there. Passing out hugs. No one really gets out of Lee's without one.

trich@jg.net