She’s been a city employee for 23 years, but retirement is the furthest thing from Nelle DuVall’s mind.
At the tender age of 93, Nelle has no plans of slowing down. And her students, family and coworkers wouldn’t have it any other way.
Nelle keeps busy teaching ceramics and painting classes four days a week at the Bell House and the Lexington Senior Center. You can usually catch her chatting while painting and she even still fires the Bell House kiln. She stumbled into the gig at the young age of 70, after attending the classes just for fun.
Before that, Nelle spent her younger years raising four children—including serving as a volunteer den mother for her sons’ Boy Scout group.
Today, Nelle serves a different kind of motherly role, delivering motivation to her students and sharing optimism with everyone she meets.
“Nelle is an inspiration to us all,” one student said.
“Her laugh and smile are contagious,” said another student. “You can’t have a bad day when you’re around Nelle.”
Nelle hosts around ten students in each class, with most of them having attended her classes for many years.
They all agree and can’t emphasize enough that the classes aren’t about the art they create, but the friendships they build. The classes are about having a social life later in life, getting out of the house and having something to do.
One student noted that she began attending Nelle’s ceramics class with her mother as way for them to spend time together and bond. Since then, her mother has passed, but she still goes to Nelle’s class each week and enjoys the comradery.
Nelle couldn’t agree more, saying “I love the job and I love the people, and wouldn’t change anything in the world for it.”
As she reaches her 23rd year at LFUCG and another milestone birthday (she turns 93 today!), Nelle officially holds the title as the city’s oldest employee.
She still drives every day and prepares most of her own meals. Beyond teaching, she is an active member of the Broadway Christian Church and she volunteers with second graders at Mary Todd Elementary School.
So, what’s her secret?
Like any true maven, Nelle of course didn’t spill the beans.
But she did offer this, “I like to stay up late and get up early. I like my coffee black, with one Sweet’n Low, and I always enjoy a good sandwich.”
Well that’s it. I’ll have what she’s having.