PHOENIXVILLE - Jimmy Flagg celebrated 41 years of service at the Vale-Rio Diner during a "surprise" party Wednesday night.
Pat Valerio, the original owner of the diner, hired Flagg on June 26, 1963, when he was just 12 years old. Valerio not only gave Flagg a job, but he also took him under his wing.
"He (Flagg) did everything for Mr. Valerio," said Helen Jackson.
Flagg has lived in the Phoenixville area all of his life, and the Vale-Rio was his very first job. He moved through the ranks of dishwasher and short order cook before becoming the head chef for 25 years.
"Out of the 24 hours in a day, I work 23 of them," said Flagg. He said his favorite part of the job is "when I get done."
"Jimmy worked here for 41 years, except for when he did two tours in Vietnam," said Mark Walters. "The only thing I can say about Jimmy is he doesn't show emotion, but he has a big heart."
Walters said he never saw Flagg get mad. He added that Flagg has a great sense of humor and doesn't let things affect him.
Walters has worked with Flagg for five years and said Flagg has "only missed maybe three sick days even with severe asthma."
"I've never heard him raise his voice in all the years I've known him," said Jackson. "He's a great guy."
In 41 years, Flagg has counted that he's cooked over 8 million eggs.
"I'm famous for my cole slaw, but they don't make it like that anymore," Flagg said.
"People used to come from miles around for Jimmy's breaded veal cutlets," said Patty Flagg.
At Flagg's party in the dining room of the Val, friends and co-workers gathered to congratulate their favorite cook and share fond memories.
Cards and gifts surrounded a cake with "Thanks for 41 years" lettered on it. Flagg also received a plaque hand-made by a customer and a watch.
"My co-workers are the greatest people in the world because everyone treats everyone like they're family, and it's been that way for 41 years," said Flagg. "In 41 years, I can say there were very little people I didn't get along with."
"Jimmy's one of the easiest cooks to work with. He makes all the girls feel good," said Patty Santillo, who worked with Flagg for 20 years. "When I first met him, he was so nice and quiet."
Pam Olock, a long time customer of the Vale-Rio who now works in the front, said Flagg "is a real nice man, always kind to me."
"I'm glad that I was here and Pat gave me this opportunity when I was young. I became very good at what I do" said Flagg.
"God love him. He's such a sweetheart," added Santillo.