If you’re unsure of anything in life, be certain of this: Mrs. Killings loves you. To the petite, endearing lady, welcoming everyone with love as they enter The Suwannee Room dining hall is her mission of the day. If you haven’t been graced with the genteel cashier’s presence, pay her a visit; she’s sure to turn your day around. Her affection comes in many forms, but her famous “Baby, I love you!” indicates a true blessing. Always by Killings’ side is her beloved Bible, from which she reads verses when she isn’t welcoming diners.
Propped upright in her chair in front of a cash register and eager to swipe the next patron’s ID card, a smile takes hold of her face. One of her babies is here.
“Hello my son,” Mrs. Killings says to him. “You were on my mind heavy this morning.”
A family visiting from New Jersey walks in, and the prospective student is a ball of nerves. The jubilant woman envelops her warmly. “Oh, you’re gonna be my new baby here,” Killings tells her.
When Suwanee guests leave, the same pattern ensues. Mrs. Killings doesn’t let a soul pass by without emitting her loving praise.
“Bye Mrs. Killings,” the students tell her.
“I love you babies. Have a wonderful day!” replies Killings.
Radiating endless smiles as they depart, the students return her sentiments with warm embraces and adoration. The Suwannee Room’s guardian angel has graced the university’s presence for 36 years.
“I started at Florida State in 1975,” Killings said. “When I first started, I did the salad bar and the desserts down at the Union.”
Originally from Tallahassee, Killings moved to Ocala for several years, but found her way back to the capital city and began her employment at FSU. She’s worked at one of the first bagel shops on campus, the first Starbucks, Oglesby Union, Moore Athletic Center and Fresh Food, and since the summer of 2006, at Suwannee—Killings has seen it all. She’s witnessed rallies, the movement of integration, campus streakers and even the aftermath of the chilling Ted Bundy murders. She reflects on the time when different races were first uniting.
“At that time, in the cafeteria, all the blacks sat to one side, and all the whites sat to one side,” said Killings. “That’s how it was when I first started. But those were the good days, because finally everybody really started mingling and really getting together. I’ve seen a lot grow.”
Appreciation and love from her managers has kept her a constant force at the university. Always the venerated employee, Killings earned her godsend reputation by helping any student in need. Never letting a soul go hungry, she gave all she had to perpetuate good spirits.
“I think that’s how I got where I am today, because when I cooked, I made sure students were happy whatever I did, if I made sandwiches or whatever,” said Killings. “I made sure they were happy. Some students would be hungry and didn’t have any money. I have gone in my purse and went up to the cashier and paid for students to eat lunch.”
Paying for meals isn’t all she’s allowed herself to give. Filling the void many students feel when leaving home, Killings is a source of guidance. When anyone in her path is having a grim day, she comes to the rescue.
“I ask them, ‘Baby what’s wrong?’” said Killings. “’Is there anything I can do?’ and sometimes they tell me they’re alright, and I tell them, ‘You can talk to me, I raised two daughters, I raised a son,’ and most of the time they’ll tell me. I’ve cried with students, I tell ya. I’m serious. I have cried with students. I’m very emotional.”
Killings jovially recalls when students visited her at home when she gave birth to her last child. They may not have been her blood, but to Killings, they were kin. She sheds a tear as she looks back on all of the love and honor she has received over the years. She’s become a sort of celebrity, with two fan pages on Facebook with over 3,000 likes, an official ‘Hug Mrs. Killings Day,’ an appearance in the State Faculty Newsletter and Killings has been invited frequently to speak in business and hospitality classes at FSU. The luminary urges students to be kind and happy in whatever profession they endeavor. In her honor, a Mrs. Killings Film Festival took place in 2008, where she starred in several films.
“I used to ask the film students, ‘Why do y’all want me in this?’” Killings said. “And they would say, ‘Because you are the star of Florida State and we want you.’”
Widely known on campus as the woman who will never cease to tell you she loves you, Killings’ sole intention is TLC.
“It makes me feel good because some days I don’t give love I just tell them, and I have some students come in and say, ‘Oh no, I want some love,’ and I give it to them,” said Killings. “And I got some babies that I automatically give them love everyday, because I know that’s what they like. That’s what I try and do. I try and keep ‘em happy.”
A typical day for Mrs. Eva Killings begins at 4:00 a.m., before arriving to campus by 5:30 a.m., Monday through Friday. After an eight-hour shift, she ventures home to care for her 85-year-old mother, cooking, bathing and getting her ready for bed. A staple in her busy routine is her faith.
“I have to read a verse or two out of the Bible everyday,” said Killings. “And if it’s not busy in here, I steady be reading.”
Turning 64 in March, she is rooted in her will to push forward every day.
“I’m not perfect, but I try to walk that walk every day,” said Killings. She smiles. “I try to walk that walk. It’s hard.”
On her days off, Killings likes to scour the stores for deals. She is exuberant when mentioning her VIP membership at SteinMart. Sometimes, Killings even indulges at the casino.
“I used to like to go sit in the casinos,” said Killings. “Listen, I don’t spend no money. I might pay five dollars but then I’m gettin’ up. That’s it.”
At the core of Mrs. Killings is her giving heart. Always devoting herself to others, her life is a steady flow of compassion. Killings is physically strong too. Last Saturday, she helped her brother repair a garage door for an apartment they own. Showing off her wear and tear, she beams with accomplishment.
“I always been the person that likes to give, because when you give, your blessings come back to you double,” said Killings. “I always liked to have friends, I always liked to have fun, and had a lot of friends when I was growing up. So that’s how I am here with the students. I have a lot of babies and a lot of friends here. Even the professors, the police officers, everybody that works on campus—I’m all their friends here on campus.”
A mother of three, Killings believes in the essence of family, calling everybody her own.
“I just treat all of y’all just like y’all my own,” said Killings. “It doesn’t matter what race you are. You still get love. I treat everybody the same.”
Writing in Spirit Daily, Michael Brown aptly describes Miss Eva as a woman who “gives us an example of love” as the “Devil stokes up division” after the Zimmerman verdict. Brown writes: