BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Workers bustle from aisle to aisle inside Robért’s Fresh Market on Highland Road. It’s 7:30 a.m. and everyone has a job to do: stacking apples, checking dates, making pizza.
In the kitchen, 94-year-old Lucille Jeansonne searches for a knife.
“I help them get ready to cook,” she said. “I love it!”
Known as “Mama J” to her coworkers and customers, Jeansonne stands about 4′ 10″ tall in her worn Crocs, slicing vegetables for the afternoon’s lunch special. Food Service Manager Danny Squyers stops by Mama J’s station with a load of broccoli.
“I don’t know what I’d do without her to tell you the truth,” Squyers said.
In this kitchen, Mama J is essential, just like the kitchen shears and the knife she slowly wields.
“I can keep up with them,” she said.
It’s the only job she has ever held, unless you count wife and mother of six.
“That’s what my husband wanted. He said, ‘Your job is home with the children,” she said.
And that’s the way it was for more than 50 years, until in 2008 after all her kids were gone and her husband passed away.
“Man, I started to get bored in that little apartment, and nothing to do,” Mama J said.
So at the age of 82, Jeansonne applied for her first job, and in an instant, became Mama to an entire grocery store.
”She’s just the heart of the kitchen,” said kitchen mate, Michael Camper.
“I call him my little boy,” said Mama J of Camper as he gives her a hug. “And I tell him the way he treats me, I know he loves his mom.”
Coworkers stop by to chat and to ask for advice. Customers sometimes come just to see her, and she sends them on their way with a smile, and an “I love you.”
Eight hours a day, three days a week, Mama is on duty. She worked straight through the freeze of 2017. Even a pandemic cannot stop her.
“Not one hour of one day she was scheduled to work has she missed.” said Squyers.
Even though she belongs to one of the highest risk groups, Mama J shrugs off worries about getting sick.
“I done everything they told me,” she said. “And I put it in God’s hands.”
In a time when governments say some work is nonessential, Mama J and her doctor politely disagree.
“You know what he told me? He said, ‘I advise you, if you like it and can take it, stay on it,’” she said. “‘It’s good for your bones.‘” Then she tapped her temple. “And that’s good right here.”
So every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, you can find Mama J behind the counter at Robért’s serving a little lunch and a whole lot of love.
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