After Tuesday, regular patrons of The Corner Room will notice the absence of a familiar and happy face.
Emma Gunsallus has worked her final shift at the State College landmark restaurant after spending 61 years waiting tables, seating patrons and welcoming all who walked through the revolving corner door.
The 81-year-old from Zion punched the clock at the restaurant for the first time in the late 1950s. Since then, much has changed from her view inside of the restaurant. She recalls College Avenue as a stone road lined with fewer buildings, but the people walking by and stopping in were a constant, which is something she said she loved about the restaurant.
“To me the restaurant has meant good food and good people,” Gunsallus said. “But the people is what I’ll miss.”
One of the patrons she likes to reminisce about is former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, who was an assistant coach on Rip Engle’s staff when she started her career at the restaurant.
Paterno was a regular visitor and he always took the time to find Gunsallus and give her a hug, just like many alumni who came in when they were in town, co-owner John Cocolin said.
He has been the co-owner for about 30 years and said while Gunsallus never missed a day of work over 61 years, her greatest contribution has been her big smile and infectious personality.
“She has portrayed exactly what we try to do at The Corner Room,” Cocolin said. “People just love her and it’s meant a lot to me to be able to see all of the people who came in and were so happy just to see her.”
Over the past few years, Gunsallus moved to hostessing and greeting people from the wooden bench near the counter where she recalls a glass case filled with baked goods, one of the few changes to the restaurant since she began.
Since word spread at the restaurant that Gunsallus was retiring, she’s received flowers, cards and gifts from customers to celebrate her time. General Manager John Briggs said there has also been a steady stream of people coming in to wish her well.
“People that have been coming into the restaurant for years are stopping by and they just love coming to see Emma,” Briggs said. “She’s a living legend if you will and an iconic member of the community. We’re going to really miss her.”