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Cy-Fair HS Culinary Academy Makes Birthday Cake For Retired Teacher

| December 1, 2017

“Birthday girl” Elizabeth Dennard, a 99-year-old retired teacher, with her daughter, Betty Beck.

“Birthday girl” Elizabeth Dennard, a 99-year-old retired teacher, with her daughter, Betty Beck.

The Culinary Students Have Honored Elizabeth Dennard With A Special Cake For Eight Birthdays

By Elizabeth Broyles, Cy-Fair HS

All great things involve cake, and the connection between the Cy-Fair High School culinary department and Elizabeth Dennard is no exception.

This September marked the eighth time that culinary students baked multiple cakes for Dennard, who turned 99 years old, and her family. The cakes started off as just birthday cakes, but have grown into a mode of catching up with and caring for Dennard and everyone around her.

“It began with Italian cream cake,” said Kara Palermo, Cy-Fair culinary academy instructor. “Mrs. Dennard’s daughter comes to our end-of-the-year banquet nearly every May, and we always make it.”

Dennard’s daughter, Betty Beck, loved the cake at a banquet and asked if the culinary academy would make a birthday cake for her mom. Both are retired teachers and Italian cream is Dennard’s favorite. “I found out that at the time the cake would be for her 92nd birthday, and I replied, ‘Of course we’ll make it!’ ” Palermo said.

Dennard adored the cake, and the culinary academy has been making her birthday cake every year since. She always requests an Italian cream cake, and culinary academy students also make a chocolate sheet cake for Dennard to share with her friends at church and family at functions. Dennard cannot go get the cakes, so Beck picks them up. She and Palermo have become good friends, now checking in on each other regularly.

That friendship had a bigger purpose about three years ago, after Beck didn’t make it to the banquet.

“I asked if everything was okay because she always comes,” Palermo said.

It turned out Dennard fell and broke her arm, and Beck was with her at the hospital.

The finished Italian cream birthday cake.

The finished Italian cream birthday cake.

“It was around Easter and we were making coconut cakes, so I asked if we could make one for her to share with the nurses since she had to be hospitalized for a while,” Palermo said.

It was only natural to try to do something for the family that had become so close to Palermo and the culinary academy. Palermo has been teaching for 32 years, and counts Dennard’s cakes as one of the best parts of her job.

“I am now eligible to retire, and everyone keeps asking me when I am going to do so. But I’m not retiring until I get to make her 100th birthday cake!” Palermo said.

Dennard went to high school during the Great Depression and could not afford to go to college. At 20, she was married and was finally able to attend college when her daughter was in fifth grade. Dennard attended the University of Houston and got her teaching certificate. She started her career in Pasadena ISD before moving to Durham Elementary School in Houston ISD. Beck taught at Emmott and Willbern elementary schools.

“It’s so wonderful that I’m still connected to the district and that they still care,” Beck said. “These are cool kids with a lovely teacher. It is wonderful… this program and how caring they are about my mom.”


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