For the last 32 years, a Massachusetts resident with Down syndrome came in to work at a McDonald's in Needham, a remarkable tenure that's finally come to an end.
More than 100 employees, family and friends of Freia David gathered at the Chestnut Street restaurant on Monday to send her off in style.
"Her smiles, her enthusiasm, and her daily hugs made our restaurant more than just a restaurant. It made us part of Freia's family," another McDonald's employee said.
David spent her entire career at McDonald's as a jack-of-all trades — cleaning tables, refilling ketchup and doing her favorite: making fries.
"I'm so grateful she could stay at this McDonald's for so long," said Freia's mom, Annelise David, 90.
Freia David began working at the restaurant in 1984 through a program that placed adults with cognitive disabilities in community jobs. Two of her peers didn't complete the six-month training course, but David soon became a mainstay.
Her passion to work led to many customers becoming friends, some of whom say are sad to see her go.
"She used to look for me as I was coming across the driveway," said an employee named Oscar. "When she saw me she jumped up before I even got there to hold the door open. And I thought you know, that was so wonderful."
David was approaching 1 million pounds of fries served when her mother began to notice that she was forgetting things and urged her to retire.
Although David may be retired from working, she plans to return on Saturdays with her mom. Employees say her meals will be on the house.
"They love me here," David said.
She received a silver necklace with a fry-carton pendant and a proclamation from the state House of Representatives among other gifts.