University Greek life can bring with it cherished experiences, lifelong friendships, and fond memories that last forever.
For these members of Phi Gamma Delta, also known as Fiji, at Louisiana State University, there was always one blessing who stood out above the rest: their house cook, Jessie Hamilton.
Starting her job as Fiji’s house cook in 1982, Jessie would wake up at 4 a.m. to make three meals a day for up to 100 fraternity brothers. She kept up that busy schedule for an impressive 14 years.
Having worked since she was 14, the single mom of three is no stranger to perseverance and determination. No matter what was going on, she always showed up to work with a smile on her face and a heart full of love.
“She was truly like a mother to us,” said 52-year-old Andrew Fusaiotti, an LSU Fiji member in the 1980s. “She treated us like we were her own kids.”
She loved them like they were her own, too, cooking them comfort foods like fried chicken and peach cobbler and leaving out plates for those who were caught up in classes or other commitments. They could also always count on her to be there with an ear to listen and a shoulder to lean on.
“They’d come in the kitchen and sit on top of the counter and tell me their problems,” Jessie told The Washington Post.
Johnny Joubert, a 51-year-old Fiji member from the early 1990s, confirmed it: “She was always asking how everyone else was and never said anything about herself. From day one, she had this aura about her that drew everybody to her.”
Jessie left the house in 1996 but stayed in touch with many of the fraternity brothers. Even then, she never stopped working. After finally saving up enough to buy her own house in 2006, Jessie committed to a 30-year mortgage, knowing it meant she would be employed for the rest of her life.
During the novel coronavirus quarantine, Andrew gave her a call to check in. “That’s when she told me she was still working two jobs,” he said. “I asked her why, and she said she couldn’t afford to retire.”
After chatting with Jessie’s three children, Andrew discovered that she still had $45,000 left on her mortgage. So he and Johnny immediately reached out to their Fiji community, asking for donations. Everyone was thrilled to help Jessie out, and 91 brothers came together to raise a total of $51,765.
They chose her 74th birthday for the grand reveal! A dozen Fiji members headed to Baton Rouge with their families, most of whom were already vaccinated, to surprise Jessie with an outdoor celebration they called “Jessie Hamilton Day.”
“If I hadn’t been sitting, I would have fell down,” Jessie exclaimed. “I was hollering and crying.”
The men acknowledged all that she had done for them over the years, and Andrew added, “We’re here to thank you for that, because we love you, respect you, and we know what you’ve been through to get this house and put food on your table.”
There wasn’t a dry eye in the place! “She would give you the shirt off her back and the socks and shoes off her feet,” said Jessie’s daughter, Yonetta Tircuit. “Now she can actually slow down and take care of herself.”
Every member of the fraternity was overcome with joy and gratitude to have this opportunity to bless someone who has blessed them so much over the years.
“They were my kids. They still are,” Jessie said. “They used to tell me they loved me, and now, they’ve proved it.”
Check out the incredible celebration in the video below, and share this uplifting story with someone you love.
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