AIKEN - East Aiken Elementary has stood on Old Wagener Road for 34 years.
June Scharfe has been there just as long.
The 64-year-old secretary began working at the elementary school the day it opened its doors. Today, she is the only original employee still there.
Her service to the school is unmatched, and so is the recognition she receives.
Schoolchildren often mistake Mrs. Scharfe for the principal.
"I used to do all the announcements, and they would hear my voice and right away they thought I was in charge," she said.
She might not be officially in charge, but most administrators, teachers and pupils at East Aiken look to her for advice and answers.
"I know where things are stored that we have to keep forever, the original floor plan and the building specifications," she said. "When anyone wants anything from long ago, they ask me."
Mrs. Scharfe never planned to become a school secretary. The former hairdresser didn't have any credentials or secretarial experience when she was hired for the job.
"I had typing in high school," she said. "That was it."
But she had the most important qualification - an outgoing personality.
"I felt like I've always been a people person," she said. "You have to be to be a hairdresser."
Although Mrs. Scharfe mastered her secretarial duties with relative ease, she is quick to point out that the profession is not as easy as some people think.
"It's much more responsibility than just answering phones and doing lunch money," she said.
When she's not greeting visitors, typing memos or recording faculty attendance, she is balancing school accounts and tracking Title I funding, responsibilities that were once handled by school district personnel.
But Mrs. Scharfe still has time to chat with pupils who dash into her office before and after school to give her hugs.
"We welcome them to the front office," she said. "We want them to know this isn't a place that's off limits."
Over three decades, the school has seen five principals and now has an additional wing.
The only change Mrs. Scharfe had a hard time accepting was a new school mascot.
She still seems to resent one fifth-grade class's decision to swap the hawk for a charger.
"I was upset because I didn't think the whole school had a vote," she said. "I thought you just kept with what you had."
While each decade brings a new generation of youngsters, it also brings former pupils back into Mrs. Scharfe's life.
"I am dealing with the (former) students' children," she said. "That's really a neat situation."
And one former pupil has become Mrs. Scharfe's co-worker.
She is Assistant Principal Amy Gregory.
"There's a very nice, relaxing rapport (between us), but I still show my respect for authority," Mrs. Scharfe said.
Even after 34 years, Mrs. Scharfe isn't considering retirement.
"After so many years, you feel you're responsible for it, that you need to be there," she said.
Principal Mary Robinson is brainstorming ways to recognize Mrs. Scharfe's continuous devotion to East Aiken Elementary.
"I suggested renaming the school June Bug Elementary," she said.
Reach Krista Zilizi at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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