Nancy Easley is in her fourth year of working at Knox as apart-time card checker, a position where she enjoys the opportunity to interact with the students.
“It’s been part of me because my mom worked at the old Gizmo, and my aunt, and every night after school I went over there and I cleaned tables and I talked to the students then. I’m a people person,” she said.
Easley ended up at the job after being informed by a friend employed at Knox that the school was hiring. She hadn’t been looking for work, being retired and on social security, but had decided she needed something to occupy herself.
“I can’t stand doing nothing. If I have to sit home and do nothing because my house is clean and I keep my work all done – I can’t just sit around. I’ve got to do something,” she said.
Easley is a mother of three, grandmother of six, and great-grandmother of five children. Before retirement, she spent 33 years employed at Sears, as well as working as a hairdresser.
“I never went to college, I quit school and went to beauty school so I didn’t go to college at all,” she said.
Some time after being employed at Knox, Easley also began working three nights a week at a local casino. She stated that she also enjoyed doing crochet in her spare time, but identified following sports as her biggest interest.
“My kids all played sports … I just tell everybody I’ve been a bleacher bum. My son is 54 and since he was six years old, I’ve went to ball games,” she said.
Easley currently enjoys attending the baseball games of her great-grandson, but has also continued her sports interest by following Knox teams. She specifically cited the school’s basketball and soccer team players as those she has tried to keep up with.
“I go to all the sports that I can É The ones that are graduating this year, I’ve watched them grow up basically. I know that graduation day I’m going to cry all day,” she said.
Reiterating her fondness for Knox students, Easley identified working during midnight breakfast as among her favorite experiences.
“I like seeing the kids come in and they’re having fun. They’re relaxed. Some of them are drinking, but, that’s natural I guess,” she said.
Easley noted her additional past experience of working in a bar as helping her become accustomed to such behavior. Overall, she thought positively of being part of the Knox community.
“It keeps me busy. I guess it keeps me young,” she said.
Trudy Bizarri has deep family connections with Knox. Her mother worked for about 20 years as a cook at Knox and her sister similarly spent two decades employed by the school. Bizarri herself began at Knox as a part-time cook after she was laid off by a local manufacturing plant.
“Knox is a good place to work … you meet a lot of people that you’re gonna keep in contact with,” she said.
Bizarri was eventually promoted from a cook to a supervisor. She spent about ten years in that position before switching to her current part-time role as a card checker, a familiar face to students who eat in the Hard Knox Cafe.
“The kids you see everyday, it’s almost like family. You get to know them all,” she said.
Bizarri, who was married 47 years before losing her husband last year, has two sons and four grandchildren. She noted that having summers and six weeks at Christmas time to spend with her family was one perk of the job, but not her favorite part.
“My biggest part is the kids. I really like the kids. I try to speak to everybody,” she said.
Outside of working at Knox, Bizarri is fond of doing yard work with flowers as well as spending her spare time baking. She also works part-time at a small local casino called Annie’s, which she described as offering a similar opportunity to Knox of getting to know a lot of people.
“You see people win money, you see people lose money. It’s just a fun place to work … I saw a woman win $7,000 one night. That was good,” she said.
Bizarri stated that she enjoys keeping in touch with students after their time at Knox. She noted that she just got to see one student who she remained in contact with through Facebook become a doctor, and recently got a visit from a former student from Ghana, who was on campus for an alumni event.
“I want to see what they’ve done after they’ve left here because it’s very interesting … It is very rewarding to see you kids graduating and hear from you and know what you’re doing,” she said.
Bizarri also appreciates seeing Knox students out in the Galesburg community, especially students who she sees contribute their time to local charity work.
“There’s not a time I go to like Iron Spike or Cherry Street or someplace to eat out that I don’t see Knox students, so I know they go and help the community,” she said.
Bizarri acknowledged that certain things have changed in her time working the school, but felt that the experience has remained the same at its core.
“Some of [the changes] are for the better, some of it’s not … I think the kids are still happy coming in, eating and the atmosphere is still real friendly,” she said.