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Surprise presentation cooked up as popular Arnewood School dinner lady Diana Light retires after 35 years



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A SURPRISE farewell was cooked up for a popular New Milton school dinner lady who retired after 35 years, having served an estimated 3.5-million meals.

Diana Light’s departure yesterday (Thursday) also ended a more-than-60-year stint of Light family members working in Arnewood’s catering department.

It was back in November 1986 when Diana replaced her mother-in-law Joan who had herself been there for 27 years.

Diana Light (centre) with (front row, from left) her grandchildren and step-grandchildren Oliver St John, Izzi St John, Madi Light and Abi St John and (back row) her daughter Tanya Light (right) and wife Gemma
Diana Light (centre) with (front row, from left) her grandchildren and step-grandchildren Oliver St John, Izzi St John, Madi Light and Abi St John and (back row) her daughter Tanya Light (right) and wife Gemma

Head teacher Nigel Presnell and colleagues joined pupils – including four of Diana’s five grandchildren who all attend the Gore Road school – for a special assembly in her honour on Monday.

Diana’s daughter Tanya also attended with her wife Gemma.

Diana was presented with a gift and a bunch of flowers in recognition of her service to generations of pupils.

Diana with her catering team
Diana with her catering team

As well as her grandchildren, she had previously seen her son Kevin go through his schooling there.

“I can’t believe it is coming to an end after all this time,” Diana said.

“I have seen many faces come and go over the years, but we have been lucky in the canteen and have always had a good team. I am really going to miss it.”

Diana with colleagues in the 1990s (photo: BNPS)
Diana with colleagues in the 1990s (photo: BNPS)

In her retirement Diana is planning to travel, spend more time in her garden in Pennington and buy a puppy.

Mr Presnell said: “We all wish her a long, happy and healthy retirement on hanging up her apron and ladle.

“The family has been in charge of school dinners for more than 60 years – serving up between them 6-million to 7-million meals.

Diana (far right) when she started work at the school in 1986 (photo: BNPS)
Diana (far right) when she started work at the school in 1986 (photo: BNPS)

“It is quite a record and means there are few locals who have gone through the school and haven’t been served by a Light.”

Tanya, who works at Ringwood Brewery, paid tribute to her mother’s commitment both to Arnewood’s youngsters and her own family – but confirmed she would not be following in her footsteps.

“She’s always been itching for me to take her place, but I’m better with beer and I can’t cook!” she said.



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