MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WTVF) — As soon as the doors open, it's pickleball at the McFadden Community Center in Murfreesboro. If anything defines McFadden more than the noises of pickleball paddles, it's the sound of receptionist Barbara Wallace answering the phone up front.
"Barbara is the nicest lady you've ever met," said one pickleball player. "She knows us all by name."
"She's just a mother hen," added another.
"I'm 89," Barbara smiled. "I'll be 90-years-old in August. My husband is 91. He's sitting over here listening to me, wanting to add something to it probably."
A lot of people at McFadden know how good a cook Barbara is, especially that hot water cornbread.
"Well, I'm gonna cook you some," Barbara said. "You'll get to eat some of it. Yep."
Barbara's whole life has been looking after people.
"When I was about five or six years old, I pulled a chair up to the stove," Barbara said. "I would cook breakfast for my family."
She was a coronary care unit nurse for 35 years. At her job at McFadden, she took an interest in the after-school programs. She started cooking good meals for the kids on her own. It's not her job. Husband Dorris said that's just Barbara.
"If we make it to September this year, we'll be married 75 years," Dorris said. "I think I made an excellent pick."
Boss Mike Philpott couldn't be more impressed with her.
"She's always been more than an employee," he said. "She's always been a family member."
"I feel like I'm helping people when I do what I do here," Barbara continued.
However, Barbara added the pots and pans are feeling heavier, and it's about time to retire. Her last day will be at the end of the month.
"We didn't actually cry, but we felt like it," said a pickleball player.
"90-years-old, I shouldn't be working!" laughed Barbara. "When I retired as a nurse, I was gonna clean out closets. I hadn't cleaned them out yet!"
There's time to spend with great-grandkids. As she leaves, Barbara has earned that title of 'beloved'.
"That's because I cook!" Barbara laughed.
Oh, but the feeling around McFadden goes far beyond that hot water cornbread. The pickleball games will go on, but everyone here gives a 'thank you' to one of those people who just make our community better.