Frankenmuth's Zehnder celebrates her 97th birthday, shows no signs of slowing down

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FRANKENMUTH (WJRT) - Frankenmuth's Bavarian Inn celebrated its 130th year in business and Dorothy Zehnder has worked there for over half those years.

"I started here when I was 16,” said Zehnder. “I worked for the Fischer family for about 5 years, then I got married, left then in 1950 the Zehnder family bought the Fisher family out so I've been here at this restaurant for close to 70 years."

Saturday was a big day for Zehnder as she celebrated her 97th birthday. But even on her special day she’s spending it like an ordinary day.

"This morning now we are mixing up some chicken pasta,” said Zehnder. “Chicken pasta is on our menu 7 days a week."

And often six of those seven days you'll find 97-year-old Dorothy in the kitchen of the Bavarian Inn hard at work.

In the midst of making the thousand pounds of Chicken Pasta that was served Saturday, retirement isn't even something that has crossed her mind.

"If I would retire and I would have to stay home I would really be bored,” said Zehnder. “So if I can come to work and I'm kind of my own boss, if I want to come I can come, I can go when I like and stay as long as I like. That's retirement."

Over the past 70 years Zehnder has been able to do something quite rare, work with several different generations of her family. Something she is thankful for.

"That's exciting but I like it,” said Zehnder. “I like every bit of it because this way I see my grandchildren growing up. I see them progressing in business."

Saturday afternoon Zehnder took a break from the peeling potatoes to do something she loves almost as much as cooking - spending time with people.

"I'm a people person and I love to visit with people and I like to work with them," said Zehnder.

While signing copies of her two cookbooks Saturday afternoon, the 97 year old was surprised with a cake from her coworkers, made with her own recipe.

A large group gathered in the retail area of the Bavarian Inn to sing Zehnder Happy Birthday, and she pulled two children standing nearby to help her blow out her candles

As she approaches the century mark Zehnder said her secret to being able to work so long is loving what she does, and after 70 years she still is able to bring something new to the table.