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Rubenstein Center Scholarship

A White House Staff Reunion

Former White House workers reminisce while looking through a photo album at the 1983 staff reunion picnic.

George Tames/The New York Times/Redux

A reunion picnic on June 24, 1983, was the scene of hugging, kissing, and backslapping, as former White House domestic staff greeted one another with laughter, emotion, and plenty of memories.1

The 1980s began a series of reunions of former White House workers. Retired chief usher J. B. West was the organizer of the 1983 event. Lillian Rogers Parks, a former maid and seamstress, shared stories with the widow of Arthur Prettyman, valet to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Heinz and Shirley Bender recalled their White House romance, which bloomed when he was the pastry chef and she was a housekeeper. "After he made Tricia Nixon's wedding cake, we got married and had no cake, but I forgave him," Shirley Bender told a reporter.2

Hoping to see "a lot of old friends," Luci Johnson Nugent, daughter of President Lyndon B. Johnson, arrived with her daughter.3 Howard Arrington recounted his favorite story about the shower jets that President Johnson had ordered him to install: "He wanted [them] to hit all parts of his body with the same force. . . . Rex Scouten in the usher's office got in the shower to test it out, and it pinned Rex right to the wall."4