At the Jan. 26 awards recognition ceremony and hail and farewell, Yupa Chin was among the honorees. She retired as head chef at Spates Community Club after a long career which began in 1971 as a cook at the Fort Leonard Wood Dining Facility.

As a youngster in her native Thailand, Chin chose cooking. "I worked at cooking, and I always enjoyed teaching others to cook.

"I love cooking," she said. "And, if I can make a customer happy, why not do it?"

She cited two examples, one prompted by Human Resources Director Ken Washington when he told the story at the Jan. 26 awards ceremony.

"I asked for egg whites," Washington said, but egg whites separated from the egg yolk for breakfast were not considered so important health wise at that time.

Chin said they bought egg whites in a container and used them for dishes that called for meringue, like for lemon meringue pie.

"One of my cooks said 'we can't do that.' But, she told me about it, and I showed her how we could do it." Chin added that she did this delicately, so as not to cause hurt feelings. "She just needed to see someone else do what she thought it was not possible to do. She saw me do this, and realized it would be okay for her to do the same thing.

"I cracked two eggs and separated the yolk from the white," said Chin. "Sergeant Major [Washington] was very happy."

"If we can possibly do something for a customer, we should do it."

Another time during a "Friends and Family" affair at Spates Community Club, an elderly gentleman could not manage to chew his breakfast. He asked if the food could be blended. Again, the cook said she could not comply.

"She and I talked about how we could help him. He could not eat the whole food. But we made the breakfast easy for him to eat by chopping it up and making the bits smaller.

"When I walked by him later, and he was enjoying his meal because he could eat it, that made me happy.

"So, I enjoy cooking and teaching other cooks to make good, nutritious meals, clean up fast and make a customer happy if you can."

Retired military officer Carol Ann Kelly has been a fan of Yupa and Alan Chin since Chin began working at Spates.

"She prepared gluten-free pasta for me when her yummy spaghetti sauce was on the menu," said Kelly. "Whatever she asks, I do," said Chin of Kelly.

"Yes, I'll miss her very much," said Kelly. "Yupa deserves all the compliments you will write."

Yupa Chin is married to Alan, who served in the Army for 24 years, retiring in 1995.

As a retiree herself now, Yupa will join with Alan, and they will take care of one another; they'll travel in the summer. They are the parents of one son, two daughters; the grandparents of four.

Her hobby at home is -- you guessed it -- cooking.