When Barbara Foris went to have her fingerprints taken, she didn't appear to have any to give.

When Barbara Foris went to have her fingerprints taken, she didn't appear to have any to give.

Three decades-plus as a school cook will do that to a woman's hands.

After an automated system tried and failed to find sufficient ridge detail on her fingertips, and even the tried and true, but messy, ink method didn't work, Foris probably began to wonder if she was going to be able to keep the job she'd held since Nov. 14, 1977.

"I said, 'I'm too old, I wore all the ridges off my fingers,' " Foris recalled. "I told them I could go out and rob a bank, now that I don't have any fingerprints."

Finally a technician said she'd found just enough in the way of ridges on a few of the cook's fingers to verify Foris was most assuredly not a wanted felon.

She got to stay on, but now it's time, Barbara Foris has decided, to put down spatula. She's retiring after 32 years as a cook for South-Western City Schools, all of it at Brookpark Middle School.

Her retirement takes effect on July 1.

"I think after 32 years -- I'm 74 -- that I should be retiring," Foris said last week. "I thought this was the time. I'm still capable of working ... but this was a good time for me to go."

She goes with a lot of memories of a lot of meals served to a lot of children.

Barbara Foris was born in Columbus. She's lived in Grove City for 47 of her 74 years. She and her late husband, Louis Andrew Foris, had four daughters, Cindy Jarrett, Vickie Vancil, Christine Fullen and Barb Wolford.

Barbara Foris has seven grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

Louis Foris died of cancer at age 48 on Aug. 23, 1982, leaving his widow to finish rearing their daughters.

When her husband was first diagnosed with a malignant melanoma of the skin, Barbara Foris said that his doctor must have suspected it was not something that could be cured, because he urged her to get a job. It was Louis Foris who suggested his wife might put her considerable cooking skills to use at a school, what with summers off and all to spend with the girls.

"I just walked in, not knowing they were hiring anyone, at Brookpark, too, because it was close to home, and I got hired right off the bat," Barbara Foris said.

After all, she is a good cook.

"Very good," she said without the slightest hesitation.

"I'll tell you what," Foris continued, "when I started in 32 years ago back at the school, everything was cooked by hand. We made our own spaghetti cause, we had to cook our own turkeys and we made 300 cookies by hand."

And then, Foris came home to prepare food for six.

"It was constantly cook, cook, cook," she said.

Things have changed greatly over the years for a school cook.

"Now a lot of stuff ... is just fast now," Foris said. "It's mostly prepared. I think the reason they did that is all the schools are cooking the same spaghetti sauce.

"These cooks come in now and they don't know how easy they have it."

Another shift is in the selections students can make for their school lunches.

"They've got so many choices they can make, there's really no reason a child can't eat a healthy meal at school," Foris said.

Barbara Foris plans to catch up on her reading, take care of her garden and spend time with the grandchildren and great-grandchild.

And then, she just might go back to school.

Foris is considering volunteering at the elementary school attended by her grandchildren, helping them and their classmates out with art and reading.

"I love children," she said.

kparks@

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