For five days a week, ever since 1984, Freia David has spent the lunch rush frying, salting and boxing fries at the McDonald's in Needham, Massachusetts. She always arrives with hugs, leaves with hugs, and sometimes dances in place because she loves her job so much. She has Down syndrome, and always greeted customers with a smile. But recently, after 32 years at the French fry station, 52-year-old Freia showed a few signs of early onset dementia, common in adults with Down syndrome. It might no longer be safe to work with hot oil, so a few weeks ago, Freia gave notice.
Last Monday, she and her 90-year-old mother, Anneleise David, returned to the Golden Arches one final time, for what the family believed would be a "small retirement party." Instead, the restaurant was packed with 200 customers who had been touched by Freia's endless kindness and smiles over three decades. McDonald's management presented her with a proclamation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives, honoring her service. Director of Operations Bob Broughton said, "Her smile, her enthusiasm, her daily hugs made our restaurant more than just a restaurant. It made us part of Freia's family. We love you, we appreciate you, we respect you, and we're all better people for having you in our lives." She received a silver necklace with a McDonald's french fry carton pendant, an assortment of her favorite Disney stuffed animals, and three hours of hugs and high-fives.