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Students say goodbye to beloved Tiger Den cashier

When Lawrence Parawan walked onto this campus as a freshman four years ago, the person he found himself most impressed with was neither a student nor a professor. I

nstead, the political science major was drawn to a warmhearted, sweet and smiling cashier –Ruby Boatley.

“Out of the dozens of people I met on campus freshman year, Mrs. Ruby’s faith always stood out to me,” he said. “She would always ask ‘how are you doing today?’ And I would follow up with an ‘I’m good, how are you doing Mrs. Ruby?’”

Then, Boatley would give Parawan the same response each time. “I’m up, out of bed, and I thank the Lord for it.”

Parawan is one of hundreds of students whose hearts have been touched by Boatley, the 70-year-old cafeteria cashier who retired over spring break.

Her husband, Willie Cleve Flemon, passed away March 8, and the U of M employee, who is still in mourning, hasn’t been able to muster a return.

“I need everybody’s prayers,” she said. “I never thought I’d miss someone the way I miss my husband.”

As to why she retired, it was more of a concern for the students than for herself.

“I just wasn’t up to it,” she said. “I would have needed to be cheerful and don’t know if I could have been. I didn’t want to be a drag on everybody.”

But by just talking to her former customers, that clearly would not have been the case. Since students have caught word of her retirement, sentiments have come pouring in.

“No matter how infrequently I went to the cafeteria, Mrs. Ruby always remembered my name with a smile,” said Peter Longoria, 22, a U of M senior history major. “She was the best part of the Tiger Den.”

Nathan Billings, 23, a recent graduate from U of M said, “She was one of the kindest people I’d ever met. She’d always remember your name. She was the reason I went to the Tiger Den.”

And Alex Gaffney, 20, a U of M junior political science and history major, recalled a time when Boatley compared him to a Hollywood screen legend.

“She once said I looked like a young Marlon Brando,” he said. “I took it as a compliment.”

Then there was U of M sophomore Braden Long, 20, who spoke not only of her compassion but also her concern.

“She knew how many times you came in a week, and she was worried if you didn’t,” he said. “She asked about classes and how stuff was going. She cared.”

These days, the former cashier still cares, even if it’s from a greater distance. She spends her time reading scripture, praying, going to church and playing with her grandnieces and nephews.

And Boatley wants students to know that though she may have left their school, they’ll never leave her heart.

“I still love them, and I wish them the best,” she said. “They’ve been the joy of my life for the past five years. I’m thankful for all the love I’ve been shown. It’s still with me.”

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