She's the school grandmother with only the best cookies

COSTA MESA — Bernadette "Miss Bernie" Loeffler celebrated her 90th birthday Thursday by coming to work at Kaiser Elementary School's snack bar just like she has done for the last 15 years.

After all, somebody has to make sure the kids eat no more than two cookies.

"I love them," Loeffler said, in her faint Boston accent. "They are all my cookiefaces, as I call them."

The Costa Mesa resident celebrated her milestone birthday with cake and presents from her colleagues, handmade cards and hugs from students, and a colorful birthday banner hung over her snack bar.

"She's a trooper," said Kathi Doran, the nutrition services cafeteria manager. "She's 90, but she acts like she's 40, 50. She's nonstop."

Loeffler has served as a nutrition services assistant since she became bored with retirement and applied for a job with the Newport-Mesa Unified School District's nutrition program in 1974. She was one of 27 employees districtwide to be honored with a Super Star Award for service in May.

"She's kind of like the school grandmother," said fourth-grade teacher Kristin Heeschen. "They love 'her' cookies."

Heeschen's class made Loeffler birthday cards; 10-year-old Payton Jefferson said she deserves them.

"Bernie's sweeter than the cookies," said fourth-grader Madison Wilkens, 10.

Loeffler said she enjoys the children's company and doesn't feel like it's work. She also appreciates that she is still able to work after nine decades.

Loeffler, who grew up just outside of Boston, was the youngest of eight children in "a good Catholic family."

She had a variety of positions before her first retirement, including working on the Apollo 11 program, making Girl Scout cookies and serving as a medical parts inspector.

"I did retire for seven years and I was bored," she said, adding later that "you can only clean the house so much."

Loeffler has a daily routine and stays active walking her dog, Buckwheat, playing bingo at Edison High School in Huntington Beach, gambling at the Pechanga Resort & Casino and watching every Laker game.

"She loves Kobe Bryant," Doran said. "He's her favorite."

Loeffler said she loves her job and that it takes up her day. She is adamant that she has no plans to retire, but she does want to travel.

"It's going to be hard," she said, "when I do say goodbye."

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