Luz Garay, FCLC Cafeteria Personality, Dies at 87


Luz Garay, after nearly 30 years of service to Fordham University and its students, will be sorely missed. (Courtesy of Robert Wolf)

Published: August 25, 2010

At 87 years old, Lowenstein Café cashier Luz Garay had amassed a devoted following of hungry college students. Some stood in the grueling long line at her register just to hear her humming joyfully as she punched orders into her computer, or to see her smack the screen if a credit card took too long to authorize. She had both a Facebook group dedicated to her—“I love Luz (the Caf Lady)”—and a short, student-produced biopic on YouTube. And even with a largely youthful clientele, she wouldn’t hesitate to chase a student down if she thought he was stealing a cup of coffee from the cafeteria.

Garay, known to students as simply “Luz,” died on June 29, four days after suffering a heart attack in the Lowenstein 12th Floor Lounge. As students return for the fall semester, the long-familiar face of the Lowenstein Café is sure to be missed.

Despite the fact that Garay passed away mid-summer, the news of her spread death quickly throughout the Fordham community. During the days after her heart attack, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) students flocked to Facebook, Twitter and other electronic media to express their concern and support for Garay, who was then in critical condition at St. Luke’s Hospital. Following Garay’s death, in the comment section of the “I love Luz” YouTube tribute, one student wrote, “RIP LUCY 🙁 God has gotten one hell of an angel in u.” Another said, “Luz will be missed so much, especially by me, since I made it my business to go up and bother her everyday.”

On July 3, a memorial service was held at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle so that students and other members of the Fordham community could pay their respects. Rev. Vincent DeCola, S.J., assistant dean of academic advising, conducted the funeral service.
“I found out that many who stopped to speak with her found her to be principled, holding everyone from students to the University professors, deans and administrators accountable for their purchases—down to the penny!” DeCola said. “She did her job, but she loved coming to work and being among the students.”

Clearly, Garay was no ordinary “caf lady.” For many Fordham students, she was a vital personality in the Fordham community. A virtually constant presence in the Lowenstein Café, Garay was well known for her dedication to the University and its students, as well as her sense of humor and quirky mannerisms.

“She was so unique and she never changed for anyone,” said Tochi Anueyiagu, FCLC ’12, who spoke to Garay almost every day. “She’d have her little ribbons in her hair and her nails would have their color and glitter. She was different, always sweet and she brightened up my day.”

A native of Puerto Rico, Garay immigrated to the United States in 1945, when she was 23 years old. It was in New York where she met and married her husband, a merchant marine. At the time of her death, Garay lived in Bergen County, New Jersey, and she made a three-bus commute to FCLC five days a week.

Garay would have celebrated her 30th year of service to Fordham in July. According to Regina Stephenson, director of Food Services, Garay’s first and only missed workday took place last winter, when the MTA buses were shut down due to extreme snowstorms.
“Lucy Garay was truly unique and we will all miss her very much,” Stephenson said. “No matter what the circumstances or the weather conditions including the snowstorms when the school was closed, Lucy always made her way to work—knowing that even if the school was closed, the students living in McMahon would soon be over for breakfast or lunch. Lucy loved Fordham, and even at her advanced age, this was where she wanted to be every day.”

Garay is survived by her husband and three children. The Observer staff would like to extend its condolences to her family and loved ones. Garay’s years of service and dedication to Fordham are appreciated throughout the University community, and she will be remembered as students file past the cashier where she made Fordham students smile for almost three decades.