Hundreds of students joined by a smattering of faculty and friends lined the cafeteria at East Broadway Elementary School in Seaford to wish Mildred Bowman a happy and healthy 95th birthday. Bowman has been a fixture in the lunchroom at the school for 46 years, providing joy, laughter, love and lots of dancing.
Shortly after the large crowd surprised Bowman on her entering the cafeteria, a select number of East Broadway students played their rendition of the aptly titled “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. “Miss Millie” joined in, dancing along with her students. She was then presented with numerous bouquets of flowers and a plaque commemorating her service in the school district, but more important, to the children and families of the community.
“She is like a legend; she is like a tradition to the students,” said Dr. Tonie Mcdonald, superintendent of schools for the Levittown School District. “She is fantastic with all the children. She is like a ray of sunshine and the kids adore her, as you can see.”
Bowman felt overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and celebration from her community.
“My heart is so full, so full of thanks, and so full of happiness,” Bowman said. “All of these children are great children, and it has been my pleasure to be here with them for all these years.”
The love for the longtime lunch monitor was so apparent, that on talking to the various local media outlets that covered the celebration, Bowman had to take breaks to give hugs to a line of children that wanted to say goodbye before heading back to their classrooms. Bowman, sharp as a whip, knew each child by name and gave equal attention to all.
“Where else do you see this?” asked Michael Pappas, Levittown Board of Education member. “Look at the love that these students have for her.
“She remembers names. When you are a new student, and you just walk into a building and no one knows who you are, you are young and without your family for the first time, but someone remembers you and your name after the second or third day, it makes you feel at home. That’s what she does for these students.”
Bowman graciously accepted her gifts from the faculty and student body, and gave thanks right back to the individuals that have provided her happiness for the past 46 years.
“I love these kids,” Bowman said. “I have to give credit, because I get to be with these great children, and I’ve worked in such a great school. The school itself is special.”
As Bowman was making that statement, Pappas interjected. “Its not the building that makes it great, Millie, it’s the people, like you.”
Brooklyn-born, Bowman moved to Levittown in 1953. Fifteen years after becoming a Long Island resident. Bowman started working at Wisdom Lane Middle School for one year, and followed by four years at Division Avenue High School. She then took a position in the lunchroom at East Broadway, where she remains to this day.
Once the birthday celebration wrapped, Bowman walked down the hallway to the main office, being congratulated by students, faculty, and maintenance members every other step.
“Miss Millie is a fixture in this district,” Pappas said. “She is loved by every generation that has come through here and had the honor and privilege of her helping them. I know students 15-20 years ago that have great stories about her. She’s such a wonderful person, full of love and energy.”