When Gerty Moore serves you lunch, you get more than a spoonful of green beans.
For the past 23 years, Puget Sound dining services employee Moore, 80, has been dishing out advice, constructive criticism, and encouragement to the masses. She admonishes young women whose skirts are too short, counsels freshmen whose appetites outweigh their bank accounts, and offers secret signals to administrators to steer them toward the best of the day’s entrées.
“I have two families,” says Moore. “I have four children, four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. And then I have my UPS family. All these kids are my kids. When I tell them something, they usually listen because they know I really do love them.”
And they love her back. Moore has boxes filled with wedding announcements, notes, and photos from students. She regularly receives postcards from Puget Sound students who are studying abroad. When she personally treated the football team to a victory dinner, they thanked her with a signed ball. She’s received plaques and banners—and even had a couple she introduced years ago call to say they’d named their daughter after her.
“Gertrude?” she says, wrinkling her nose. “Can you imagine? I’ve always hated my name.”
In Moore’s world, there are no strangers. If she knows you—and sometimes even if she doesn’t—you’re “Schnuckelputz,” a German term of endearment.
Lily Kim ’05 was a freshman when she met Moore during their shared Saturday morning dining services shift. Their friendship began with Moore telling stories about World War II bombing raids and her childhood in Austria. Soon the unlikely pair realized a shared affinity for dining out and shopping.
“I hadn’t known her very long when I started thinking of her as ‘Grandma Gerty,’” says Kim. “She was always telling me to stop wearing flip-flops in the winter and to cover my bellybutton, but she was also making sure I studied and got enough to eat.”
When Kim’s mother died during her sophomore year, Moore stepped in to support her young friend.
“She is my family and always will be,” says Kim.
Moore befriended Matt Kennedy ’03 when he was a sophomore. Theirs is another friendship that continues to flourish.
“She was over at my house last weekend, playing with my kids,” says Kennedy. “We started out going to brunch together one weekend, and I was immediately struck by the fact that she genuinely cared how I was doing. When my wife and I got pregnant, Gerty was one of the first people I called. She’s lived such a remarkable life, it always helps me to talk to her to put my problems in perspective.”
Moore isn’t sure how long she’ll be able to continue working at Puget Sound. “I thought I might retire this year, but a lot of the professors and students told me I couldn’t,” she says. “It sounds silly, but I think I’m needed here. And the truth is, they fill me with happiness. I love them all.” — Mary Boone