Co-workers surprise DHR employee on 80th birthday

Published 5:15 pm Wednesday, March 23, 2022

By JOYANNA LOVE | Managing Editor

Excitement rose as employees slipped into the conference room at the Chilton County Department of Human Resources on March 23. Each guarded the secret of the 80th birthday celebration they were about to present to Paula Romano.

Their efforts were successful as Romano’s reaction confirmed she had no idea.

“I’m speechless,” she said as she walked into a crowd of family, former co-workers, co-workers and other friends singing happy birthday.

“I don’t feel 80,” Romano said. “I just do my thing.”

For those looking for advice for a long life, she says “just be positive and happy, and take each day as it comes.”

Romano’s career at DHR began in 1987 when she became an adult service worker. During her career, she went on to work in the areas of child welfare, licensing group homes for children, contracts and federal claims as well as assessing unlicensed assisted living facilities. She retired in 2005.

Although retirement is something many say they are looking forward to, being fully retired did not last long for Romano. She returned in 2010 as a part-time employee after a call from the director.

“I love it,” Romano said. “Working with DHR is more of a mission than a career. You just have to love the people.”

She now works in the food assistance program of DHR.

“She is a very humble, and she tries to help everyone who wants help,” co-worker Francine Lewis said. “… She is an example to live by. She really is. She is very deserving of this day.”

Since Romano’s church has a food pantry, and she is able to get those in immediate need food while they are waiting for paperwork to be processed for other assistance.

“Paula has just been a delight, and she is my role model,” DHR director Marilyn Colson said.

She said Romano works with “grace and charm and kindness.”

Romano describes working for DHR as “the best job I have ever had.”

“Because I get to talk to a lot of people and just meet their needs,” Romano said.

Her supervisor Kim Floyd-Craig said several people have expressed appreciation for how helpful Romano is.

A Chilton County native, Romano studied music and music education at Alabama College, now known as the University of Montevallo. She became a high school music teacher in Branson, Missouri and later taught at the college level in Arkansas and Michigan. Her musical talent has been enjoyed locally at First United Methodist Church, First Baptist in Clanton, Concord Baptist and Chestnut Creek.

Romano is now an active member of Trinity Episcopal Church arranging the church’s flowers and filling in as needed to play the piano or lead music.

“We love her,” church friend Morisa Flowers said.

She said Romano will come pick up food from the church’s food pantry and deliver it to those who cannot come get it.

Jenny Millweed described Romero as “the sweetest person ever. She would help anybody and everybody.”

Romano enjoyed her 80th birthday celebration and seemed deeply touched by all the friends who came out.