Longtime Miami food service worker leaves legacy of caring


Photo by Scott Kissell

Phyllis Joan Ayers spent 61 years serving meals to “her kids,” in Miami’s Martin Dining Hall.

By Luke Helton

Phyllis Joan Ayers spent 61 years making sure “her kids” were well fed in Miami University’s  dining halls.

Ayers, 91, of Oxford, died April 2. A longtime food service worker at Miami University and resident of Oxford, she left behind a great legacy and a bright mindset.

She had built a large family in her 91 years, including three children, nine grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.

“My mother was a kind, loving mother, grandmother, great grandmother and friend. She loved taking her family out to dinner, family gatherings, Christmas and always loved being at the center of attention,” her son, Todd Ayers, said. “I would want my mother to be remembered as a loving, caring and giving person, who always greeted you with a smile. She loved her job and the students. She often called the students ‘her kids.’”

Ayers started her career at Miami June 25, 1958. She started at Hepburn Hall, until the opening of Martin Dining Hall in 1959, according to Tina Rotundo, the director of Miami Catering. 

“She used to work downstairs in the to go room making pizzas and subs,” Rotundo said. “The students and staff named her the “Pizza Queen” and had a special crown made for her because nobody could make a pizza better than her.”

Ayers also developed a special relationship with the Miami golf team, who ate in Martin and was even invited to the coach’s holiday party. 

Two of the team members accompanied her to an awards dinner at Miami where she received the Innovative Leadership Award. This award was presented to her for “exemplary customer service, focus on pleasing the customer and positive impact on guests.” 

Ayers had many other accomplishments in her life including being a part of a bowling league and competing in tournaments for over 40 years.

Ayers retired from Miami during the upgrade of the Martin Dining Hall in 2015. She had taken time off once before when her husband, Kemper Ayers, died in 1989, but then returned a year later because she had missed her “kids” too much.

In retirement, Ayers often visited Gatlinburg, Tennessee, went to see her sister in Indiana and would attend church every Sunday, according to her son Todd.

“She will be greatly missed by her family and friends. Rest In Peace,” he said.

Ogle Paul Young Funeral Home of Oxford, handled arrangements and a private family service was held.