Corner Room Favorite Emma Gunsallus To Retire After 61 Years Of Service

On blustery State College nights, the tall, inviting windows of the Corner Room splash a golden light onto the College Avenue sidewalk, making even the most hurried Penn Staters slow down to peer inside. For the past six decades, they might have seen Emma Gunsallus on the other side of the glass, gliding from table to table and greeting regulars with a contagious smile on her face.

“I just love my job here and I like people. I like most everybody,” said Gunsallus, who will officially retire from her position at the Corner Room on Tuesday after 61 years of service.

She began working at the iconic downtown eatery in 1957 as a 19-year-old. Since then, she’s spent all but one year in Happy Valley, moving to Oklahoma to be with her husband while he served in the Army.

Gunsallus clearly has always had an infectious personality, and her friends were quick to jump in when she was asked about her secret to career longevity.

“Her secret to success is that she always has a smile on her face,” a friend said with admiration.

That smile made her many friends over the years. Some Penn State football fans may be interested to know that Gunsallus liked to joke around with Joe Paterno, who would to come into the familiar restaurant for weekend breakfasts and meals with visiting recruits.

“Joe came in here quite often and he used to do all of the recruiting on Saturday mornings here,” explained John Cocolin, a co-owner of The Corner Room. Gunsallus and Paterno shared a running joke in which she would lead him around the restaurant as if to his table, but eventually circled back around to the lobby instead.

Gunsallus has met a couple of U.S. Presidents in the restaurant as well, although she couldn’t quite remember which leading figures she happened to come across. In any case, it’s certain that she put a smile on their faces.

“Most people look for [a personable nature]. When you laugh, they laugh too,” Gunsallus said. Her mentality has played no small part in what has made generations of Penn Staters excited to eat at The Corner Room.

“I think The Corner Room is a very pleasant place and I don’t think anybody has anything bad to say about it. If anybody ever asks, I say, ‘Go to The Corner Room.’ And you can make friends very well here,” she added.

The long-time employee’s charisma and charm meant a lot to the State College community. For example, Gunsallus consistently sold the most Pink Zone donations of anyone at The Corner Room. You may recognize her from the front page of a past issue of the Centre Daily Times that labeled her as a “hero” for her efforts with the local chapter of the Red Cross, or even on the front page of the “Best of State College” edition of State College Magazine.

The love for Gunsallus was clear throughout Monday morning, as friends and customers alike came to show their appreciation for The Corner Room’s fan-favorite.

Gunsallus doesn’t have any specific plans for retirement, although she is excited to spend time at home relaxing and working on a garden come spring.

We wish you the best of luck in retirement, Emma. You will surely be missed.

Photo: Geoff Rushton

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Derek Bannister

Derek is a junior majoring in Economics and History. He is legally required to tell you that he's from right outside of Philly. Email Derek compliments and dad-jokes at [email protected]


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