Will now spend time with her grandchildren

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

There were red balloons and blue balloons, with streamers hanging well below eye level all around Alma Zuniga's desk.

It was a happy time, with old co-workers and friends relaying stories of the past. Zuniga cried and smiled, and cried some more. It was Alma's last day with the Alice school district.

She said good-bye to 30 years worth of work with Alice ISD. She spent 17 years working with teachers and substitutes at Alice High School, taking care of day-to-day activities as the principal's secretary.

She spent another 13 years up to her elbows and knees in reports and invoices as secretary for the district's Director of Operations.

On her last day, though, it was quiet.

"My job was pretty easy. except for trying to keep things going, keeping things within the budget. Making ends meet," Zuniga said.

The life in an office was always her calling. Whether it was as a senior at Alice High School, Class of '72, where she spent much of her day in the school office under Mrs. Ruiz, or in a position of her own in the district.

There was always more paperwork to consider, people to deal with, problems to address. Office work was her ambition, she said, and it gave her a life that was good. But Zuniga is confident that the best is yet to come.

With her husband, Eliverto, still working for a few more years, and her sons, Aaron, Alex and David grown, Alma plans to spend her time focused on her grandchildren, three-year-old Trenton, and two-and-a-half-year-old Jaydin. She also has a new little one on the way, which will keep her very busy during the next few years.

"It was a tough decision, but it's a good time to go. I'm still young enough to enjoy my grandchildren. They're the reason, they'll keep me busy from now on," Zuniga said. "Now I have the time to do something other than work. I can say it's my time, and not someone else's time. I've been working since I was 16 years old. Yeah, it's enough."

Zuniga said she appreciated everything her co-workers have done for her throughout the years. She said she'll miss them all a great deal.

According to her coworkers, Alma made a impression in the office.

"She was never someone who complained. She was always very patient," co-worker Sylvia Lopez said. "She's been loyal to the district and a lady to the fullest. She has always carried herself as a professional."

Dina Garcia, the front desk receptionist, said Alma was like a counselor to all the ladies in the office, someone who could be depended on to lend an ear.

"She is a good listener, and after all these years, she never said no to anyone," Garcia said.

"We can talk to each other and cry on each other's shoulders. That aspect I will miss. The way they feel about me, that's how I feel about them," Zuniga said. "My life's been pretty full, pretty satisfying."