Who could be better to emcee Fresno Unified's annual retirement dinner than longtime spokeswoman Susan Bedi? Probably no one, even though it means Bedi will be saying her own final good-byes to friends and colleagues she's made over the past 41 years.
The Fresno native and 1973 Hoover High graduate, who has spent her entire career in the district, working her way up from answering phones as a secretary in the early 1970s to public information officer, is finally capping her pen. On Friday night, she'll anchor the annual retiree send-off she's hosted for years for a final time.
"One of the things (my mom) always told me is make sure you retire young enough so you can enjoy life and do all those things you want to do," she said. "So, I'm listening to her."
Bedi, 58, can quickly rattle off more than 10 superintendents she's seen come and go over the years. She's effusive about her current boss, who is quick to say the feeling is mutual.
"She is known and loved by all," Superintendent Michael Hanson said. "She's personable, she's funny, she's always appropriately respectful, but she sees humor in life."
Bedi is a fixture at the district's bimonthly school board meetings and one of the district's lead event organizers. In 2008, she was named manager of the year by a state school administrators organization. She's also the go-to person when school administrators have a crisis on campus.
Putting out fires could be a thankless job at times. Bedi has for years been on-call around the clock, missing out on her kids' soccer and swim meets and often being pulled away from family gatherings and holidays to deal with school emergencies.
"You have to make sacrifices," she said.
The tears come when she talks about that part of her job. She recalls the phone call six years ago when a school police officer shot a special education student at Roosevelt High, and in 2005 when a parent was killed at Birney Elementary. Fighting her own emotions was "very, very difficult," she said.
When asked about her retirement plans, she glows. Writing a "Dear Abby"-type column has always been a dream. She loves reading fiction and has considered writing a book. She's sure to spend more time with her husband Guravtar and her chocolate labrador Duke.
Her kids Ryan, 23, and Amber, 21, are now grown and pursuing careers in the medical field. Now that their own lives are speeding ahead, it's difficult to imagine mom without a day job.
It will be hard for her to let it all go, Amber said. "This is her life."
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6412, firstname.lastname@example.org or @hannahfurfaro on Twitter.