For most St. Olaf students, Marcia Demars, Josh Yahnke and Maryella DeLaGarza are old familiar faces, greeting and cheerfully heckling students each day as they move through the bag lunch line. As I sat down to talk with them during a lull in their shift, it is obvious that the trio man the line with ease and precision, and it’s no wonder: together they have almost 50 years of experience working for St. Olaf food services.
Marcia has the most experience, working for over 39 years for St. Olaf. "Josh likes to joke that I dated Jesse James himself," Marcia said. She’s originally from Morristown, MN (her grandfather was a farmer there), but moved to Northfield, and then Faribault when she was married. She now has four grandchildren that she loves to spend time with.
Maryella moved to Northfield 10 years ago from Texas to be with her family, and has been working at St. Olaf for the past 5 years. She loves going for long walks, and gets very caught up in her favorite telenovellas, which she watches with her large family and two-year-old grandson.
Josh also has spent 5 years working for Bon Appetit, after graduating from St. Cloud State with a degree in Marketing. He currently resides in Lakeville.
[Photo: (left to right) Marcia Demars, Josh Yahnke and Maryella DeLaGarza]
Obviously, this much time behind the food counter means Marcia, Josh and Maryella have gotten to know quite a few of the students well. Some of Marcia’s favorite customers are two brothers (“They have long, wavy hair... the younger one wears a ponytail, I think?”) who come through the line quite often, and ask quite simply to be surprised with whatever combo the staff gives them. Josh says he really pays attention to the athletes that come through the line. “We keep up after you,” he notes. “We read the paper, follow your accomplishments. It’s really fun to watch our students flourish.”
“Oh, please,” laughs Marcia. “Josh just loves the ladies.” Josh quickly brushes this off with a roll of the eyes. This kind of joking is typical between the two of them, considering Marcia has known him since he was quite young. In fact, all three of them love to laugh, and love joking with the students that come through the line. “We love it when you dish it back,” says Josh. “It perks you up, it perks us up.” Just as Josh finishes, as if on cue, one student comes through the line, and asks for a Fresca. “It’ll cost you an extra quarter,” Josh says, with a straight face. It takes the student moment to realize that this is a joke, but when he does, he can’t stop laughing.
Then comes the catch all question: “What would you put in your bag lunch?” They each take a moment to think about it. Maryella says she’d probably get water and a turkey sandwich on wheat or multigrain bread, and finish the meal with a cookie, carrots, orange, and chips. Josh, on the other hand, would refuse carrots – “I only like them when they’re cooked,” he notes – and would top off his bag lunch with pretzels, an apple, a cookie and two sandwiches: ham and cheese on multigrain and turkey and cheese on multigrain. Marcia, finally, decides to switch things up and orders a diet coke. “She’s obsessed with her diet coke,” says Josh, and would get ham on wheat with a salad. She tops off her ideal meal with an apple, pretzels, and carrots, but won’t get a cookie because she’s diabetic.
“That’s another thing,” remembers Marcia. “I wish more students would realize that they can get their meals specially done if they have any sort of food intolerance or issues. Celiacs, diabetes, whatever... we’re very willing to make it work. Don’t be afraid to ask!”
It’s quite clear the Marcia, Josh, and Maryella are all about creating the best environment for both themselves as well as students. “We love that we’re more to students than just the people that serve their food,” says Marcia, “and they’re more to us than just the people we give food to.”
“We love to hear stories, we love to listen,” adds Josh. “We’re just happy getting to know you!”