Occupation: Carpenters Middle School cafeteria manager
Family: Married to James McMurray for 38 years, and they have two sons, Bartley McMurray, 32, and Brandon McMurray, 28.
Vicky McMurray, manager at the Carpenters Middle School cafeteria, “Cougar Café,” says she’s firm on her priorities. Her family and her church -- Unity Christian -- come first.
She also has a reason to brag about her extended family, her “girls:” the staff at the Cougar Café. McMurray recently won awards at the Tennessee School Food Association conference in Gatlinburg, and she says it’s all thanks to the folks on her staff.
For McMurray, her “girls” include Kathy Pearson, Sharon Larson, Earlean Cummings, Michelle York, Billie Mayes, Silvia Birnios, Grace McHargue and Maria Gentry.
“I love my girls. These girls are my family,” she says. “They are so great, and I love them.”
McMurray grew up in Blount County, graduated Maryville High School and became certified as a licensed practical nurse. After earning her LPN, she worked for Dr. David Calvert and Dr. Bryan Thompson and then worked for 13 years as a nurse at the Blount County Jail before becoming the Carpenters Middle School cafeteria manager in 2000.
“It was a very good change and that is why I left,” she says. “Now I hate snow, but pray for snow days.”
McMurray says the food at the Cougar Café is healthy. “Everything is baked, and we’ve gone to mostly wheat buns. French fries have been cut down to once or twice a month, and we try to make a lot of homemade items. The kids love it,” she says.
McMurray attends the Tennessee School Food Association and the National School Food Association annual conferences. In addition to training, the conferences also offer the chance to win awards. “I was honorable mention in the Louise Sublette Award of Excellence. In the Health Now, I was second place with a $200 cash prize. I won the Best Practices Award and a $500 scholarship.”
McMurray says the topic of the entry was “Increasing Fruits and Vegetables in Schools.” The past two years, Carpenters Middle School has been part of a program in which the Department of Defense sells excess produce to the USDA, who then gives it to schools.
“You’re allocated the produce by your free and reduced lunch count. You get a choice of so much more fresh fruit and vegetables, like red potatoes and spring mix - stuff we can’t afford to buy. It makes a big difference,” she says.
McMurray says she enjoys her job. “I love the children, and I love working with everyone here,” she says. “You don’t dread coming to work because you’re doing something that makes a difference in a kid’s life. You feel appreciated.”
In addition to her husband and sons, McMurray dotes on her daughters-in-laws. “I have two wonderful daughters-in-law, Natasha McMurray and April McMurray and four grandchildren, Brody, 6, Brandt, 3, and Kylie, 5, and Ty, 9 months.”
Here is Vicky McMurray:
What are you guilty of?
“Not taking enough time for myself. I can’t say no.”
What is your favorite material possession?
Pocketbooks are my fetish, so I guess that would be the answer.”
What are you reading currently?
“Miles To Go Before I Sleep,” by Jackie Nink Pflug. “It is about the woman from Texas who was on a hijacked plane in Egypt several years ago.”
What was your most embarrassing moment?
“When I was walking my son Bartley’s dog Max, a St. Bernard, I saw a ball from our yard. Just by instinct, I threw it back to our yard, and the run was on. That dog dragged me right through the yard on the side of William Blount Drive until I thought I would die from either embarrassment or pain.”
What are the top three things on your bucket list?
“Take an Alaskan Cruise, visit Australia, and buy a convertible Camero.”
What is one word others often use to describe you and why?
“Giving. You call or have a need, I will be there, if at all possible.”
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
“I don’t have any patience. I got that from my mom.”
What is your passion?
“Cooking and working. I love to cook and work. Both keep me busy, which is good because I don’t like to sit still.”
With whom, living or dead, would you most like to have a long lunch?
“My dad, Clark Davis. He died when I was 23 years old. I had just had my first child, and my world fell apart. I would love for him to see his great-grandchildren and meet their moms.”
If you could go back in time for a week, what time period or year would you visit?
“The 1950s. We are in a 1955-’56-’57 Chevy club, and I love the cars and the music.”
What is the best present you ever received in a box?
“When I was about 6 years old, my dad bought me a little palm tree with shells. I thought it was great. I held it all the way home from Florida, got home, knocked it off and broke the palm, but I still have it, 50 years later.”
Other than your parents, who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?
“My mamaw, Hazel McMurray. She was the most caring, loving individual I have ever met. She never drove, had very little money, but would give from her heart everything possible. I loved her dearly.”
Do you Myspace, Facebook or Twitter?
“No, no, no.”
What’s the worst job you have ever had?
“I worked as a nurse for a doctor in his office, and he and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on anything. I left after a week.”
What was your favorite Saturday morning cartoon and why?
“Yogi Bear and Boo Boo.”
What irritates you?
“People who don’t take pride in their job. Also, I hate to talk to the top of people’s heads while they are online texting or doing Facebook. There is a time and a place for everything.”
What’s one place in Blount County everyone should visit?
“Cades Cove. I love the drive and the deer.”
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself at 18?
“Don’t wish your life away. Do different things, travel, enjoy life before you ever think of settling down. You are only young once.”
What is your greatest fear?
“Not living long enough to see my grandchildren graduate and marry.”
What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
“Mom, Helen Davis, did say, ‘If you think it, you might as well say it.’ And she always did.”
“I still can’t quite get the hang of…
“Telling people no.”
If you could do one impulsive thing, what would it be?
“Buy that Red convertible Camero.”