Beloved Adelia’s hostess Virginia Hensley is known for dressing up for holidays.
One Halloween, she put on a Dolly Parton look-alike outfit, using 22 washcloths to imitate her famous bust, along with a long blonde wig and fancy dress.
Soon after she returned home after that day of work, her daughter phoned. Her son-in-law had been hospitalized with heart problems.
“You know when you get a call like that, you don’t have time to go change,” Virginia said. She drove to Frankfort Regional Medical Center as the famed country music star.
When she got to the emergency room, Virginia attracted a fair share of attention.
“The nurses and the doctors were dying laughing,” she said.
Her son-in-law had a similar reaction.
“Oh Virginia! I’m having a heart condition and you walk in like this?” he asked. She didn’t think her costume would hurt his condition.
Virginia dresses up because she loves color and making people smile.
“I love clothes,” she said, clad in a Valentine’s Day-inspired sweater checkered with pink and red hearts. “God has given us a lot of color, and I like to use those colors.”
The 5-foot tall hostess started the tradition of dressing up for each holiday while working in King’s Daughters cafeteria about 16 years ago, which cheered up everyone in the retirement community.
Since then, her holiday wardrobe has grown, filling up a storage building in the backyard of her east Frankfort home. Virginia doesn’t wear the same outfit every year, and says her collection has grown to about four outfits per holiday.
Adelia’s customers will ask her weeks in advance what she plans to wear.
“I’ll say, ‘I’m not telling. You have to come and see what I’m wearing.’ I’ve had several people say they come just to see what I’m wearing.”
That tickles Adelia’s owners Gerald and Elaine Sims, Virginia said.
Everyone who walks into Adelia’s knows Virginia. She greets customers with a smile and shows them to their seats. After she puts in customers’ orders, she’ll stick around and chat.
“I just love being with people. Everybody’s so different, you know, a different creation of God. It’s so interesting.
“It’s just a joy to see people every day and to find out where they come from and what they do. Everybody’s unique in their own way.”
Virginia came to Frankfort from Shelby County, where she graduated from Bagdad High School in 1949. A bookkeeping job at the old Model Laundry on Clinton Street lured her from home.
Her career in food service began at Elkhorn Elementary School about 30 years ago. She worked as a cafeteria manager at Elkhorn to be close to her daughter.
But the other kids at school soon stole her heart, she said.
“I loved the children. All of them.”
Virginia – a self-proclaimed workaholic – says she looked for another job when her three children left elementary school.
She knew the owner of the restaurant at King’s Daughters and asked her for a part-time job.
The owner hired Virginia, and she immediately connected with the clientele.
“I just became so acquainted with those older people. I just loved them.”
One problem working with the restaurant was having several owners during her nine years there.
Not that she disliked the new owners. She just couldn’t keep up with the name changes.
Virginia recalls the restaurant was called The Zesty Palate and then Anna Bananas. One person asked her where she worked while the business was named Anna Bananas.
“I told her, ‘Apple Bananas.’ I caught myself and said, ‘No, that’s not right,’” she chuckled.
Virginia rubbed elbows with several prominent Kentucky lawmakers and businessmen during her tenure at King's Daughters. Former Gov. Martha Layne Collins – who went to school with Virginia at Bagdad High – frequented the establishment, as did Julian Carroll, the former governor and current state senator.
Several state legislators as well as local doctors and judges have visited her at Adelia’s.
Even President Barack Obama sent Virginia a letter in August.
“This past year in May, I told my family I was going to write the President of the United States a letter. They said, ‘You’ll never hear from him.’”
She wanted to tell him what the American people expect of the president.
Virginia pulled out the letter – signed by the president – and showed it to The State Journal.
The letter didn’t mention anything Virginia wrote, but she said, “It was nice to get a response.”
She’s always careful when politicians come into the restaurant.
“Some are Republicans and some are Democrats. I have to be very careful, because you can’t run customers off.”
Virginia made the jump to Adelia’s after the Kings Daughters cafeteria closed to the public. She’d helped Gerald and Elaine with a donut shop on Collins Lane, and they asked her to come to Adelia’s when it opened seven years ago.
“That was the hardest decision, to leave King's Daughters to go to Adelia’s,” she said solemnly. “I think it was the right one, though.”
Those who are surprised by Virginia’s kindness shouldn’t be. She was raised to be friendly, and she passionately follows her faith.
“Everything I am or hope to be comes from Jesus Christ, because without him I would be nothing. I want that included in this story because that’s me.”
Virginia has no plans to retire. People ask her how old she is, but she says age is a mindset.
“I resent the fact that people ask me when I’m going to retire. I say, ‘Never. I’m never going to retire. I love my job.’
“I just work four hours. I have a good time with the customers. We joke and laugh, and they’re just like my family.”
“Frankfort Faces” is a series that highlights people from within the Frankfort and Franklin County community. Each feature follows one of the city’s most unique personalities and includes a story, photos and video, which can be found by clicking the TV icon attached to the story online at state-journal.com.