Sandra Bolton nurtured Dubbo children for 20 years and it was only the lure of retirement that convinced her to leave the job she loved.
Mrs Bolton finished at Rainbow Cottage Childcare Centre on Friday amid heartfelt appreciation from her little charges, their parents and her colleagues.
As they said farewell with hugs and warm words, Mrs Bolton expressed her own gratitude to the workplace that had offered her so much.
“I loved the children and the parents,” the retiree said.
“Rainbow Cottage is such a wonderful centre, with Annie at the helm and a wonderful team of staff.”
Her schoolday dreams of teaching were able to come to fruition at Rainbow Cottage.
As a young woman at Nyngan she had instead started her working life at the town’s Bank of NSW branch.
There she met Paul Bolton, whom she would later marry.
They travelled across the state and had two daughters, Kim and Marisa, before settling at Dubbo 25 years ago.
It was as a mother of older children that Mrs Bolton was able to take her career dreams off ice.
She started with Rainbow Cottage in its first week, first as a casual and then later accepted the offer of a permanent position.
She had enthusiastically worked as a childcare assistant ever since, with babies up to the preschool classes.
In recent years Mrs Bolton had welcomed the offspring of some of her earlier charges and counted it all as special.
“It’s been a joy and privilege to be with the children,” Mrs Bolton said.
“They all have their own personalities, they’re individuals and they’re all special, every single one of them.”
On her last day of work the childcare assistant found a “lovely surprise” waiting for her.
The centre gave her a send-off attended by many children, their parents and even some past enrolments, now at school.
Centre director Ann Keen said they wanted to show they appreciated their colleague’s dedication.
The gathering at the Dubbo City Council-operated centre was also attended by mayor Mathew Dickerson, council general manager Mark Riley and community services director David Dwyer.
When Ms Keen was asked about Mrs Bolton’s qualities, she said: “her knowledge, dedication, persistence, patience - I could go on and on”.