BCR since 1968.
"God gave me a gift for working in this environment," Engele said.
"I'll be eligible to substitute when necessary. And I'll be around
some of the time. It won't be a total break."
Among those at the lunch were center staff, teachers, and students
and their parents. Mayor Marsha Ramos presented Engele with a
certificate of recognition.
The developmentally disabled students attending classes at the
center became Engele's family as she has no children of her own, said
Debbi Thayer Mitchell, whose brother, Grant, has been at the center
since it started in 1963.
"[Grant] says, 'Marti's retiring' -- he knows what that means,"
Mitchell said. "But she has told them she will be back. She's been a
constant in everyone's life."
A native of the Pacific Northwest, she was visiting friends in
Southern California when one encouraged her to apply at the center.
She was offered a job the week following her first visit, Engele
Her years at the center coincided with its move from various
churches in the city until finding a permanent home in 1996 on
Amherst Drive, across from McCambridge Park.
"It's a job where no two days are ever alike," Engele said.
"There's a lot of variety."
Engele and her group of adult students were returning from their
weekly bowling outing to find the kitchen area decked out for the
surprise lunch. She wiped her eyes looking at a black-and-white
photograph from the early 1970s showing her with a group of students.
"What a wonderful lunch to come back to," Engele said to the
Student George Nicholas presented a large drawing to Engele on
behalf of the adult day students.
Patricia Savery, whose daughter, Lisa, started with BCR in 1966
and returned after leaving the Los Angeles public school system, said
that having an environment filled with love, caring and discipline
was more important than intellectual development.
"I was thrilled Marti was Lisa's teacher," Savery said. "I've
always known those characteristics would come from her."