Jane Hayes is leaving Rock Hill Parks, Recreation and Tourism, but "Mother Goose" will not stay long in the coop.
Hayes is the woman whose Mother Goose costume was stolen from her car in a church parking lot three years ago. The headline made international news, but police never caught the thief. She spent two months making a new costume from scratch.
Hayes, 63, who dresses as Mother Goose to entertain and educate children at Glencairn Garden, didn't give it up then, and she won't stop now, even after she retires this month from her job as environmental educator.
Hayes hopes to rest for a while, then delve into her drawer of recipes and start on a Mother Goose cookbook, a project that's been in the back of her mind for years, she said.
Never miss a local story.
She said she hopes to continue entertaining children in her costume at festivals, museums and libraries, and plans to host some parenting classes on the side.
"I like to ham it up," Hayes said about her nursery rhyme skits. "The older I get, the more I really do feel like a Mother Goose. It's kind of a special feeling."
Her last appearance, after 18 years of working with the city, will be on Saturday at the Bigger House at Glencairn Garden. She and her daughter will teach manners at a tea party.
"She goes around playing Mother Goose, but she is really a Pied Piper," said Betty Jo Rhea, former mayor of Rock Hill. "A lot of people aren't excited about what they're doing, but Jane throws her whole self into it."
Hayes, who has worked nonstop since she was 15, has thrown herself into the Come-See-Me festival, Christmasville and the city's 2002 Sesquicentennial celebration, not to mention dozens of other projects, including environmental walks and lessons.
She's wrangled others in, too. They include Leane Skroban, a member of her church whom Hayes suggested compile the Come-See-Me scrapbook one year. Now, Skroban is a Come-See-Me team leader. She said Hayes saw something in her -- a love for Rock Hill, maybe -- and she knew she was caught.
"Jane loves this place and wants it to be better for all of us," Skroban said. "That's who I'd like to be when I'm her age."
Hayes has watched Rock Hill change from a handful of elementary schools and businesses such as the Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co., where both her parents worked making cloth, to a diverse, growing city.
She's been part of Come-See-Me since it began in 1962, when she and other high school girls her age wore prom dresses and led visitors on tours of Glencairn Garden.
Her dress was bright blue and hoop-style, with ruffled sleeves and layers of tulle underneath. She showed visitors the blooming dogwoods and azaleas.
"Can't tell you how many times I've been (festival mascot) Glen the Frog since," she said, laughing.
Hayes also can remember details of Rock Hill's 100th birthday bash, when she was just 5 or 6. And she spent more than a year chairing the city's Sesquicentennial celebration, which caused such a stir downtown that Gillette showed up to sponsor a shave-off with the model of a new razor for the Brothers of the Brush beard-growing contest.
"I don't know yet that they know what they're losing," said husband Charlie Hayes, an English teacher who admits that he is not the social person his wife has always been.
Charlie calls himself The Driver -- he even has a windbreaker with the title printed on the back. When Jane plans events, he goes and drives. He especially likes to watch children captivated by the certified kindergarten teacher they call Mother Goose.
"They just migrate to her," he said.
So does her family. Hayes puts as much effort into planning family celebrations, vacations, dinners and game nights as she does planning big events for the city, her husband said. The whole bunch just spent two weeks on a family outing at the beach, and everyone lives close together in Rock Hill.
"This is the only home I know," Hayes said. "My family and I have chosen to stay here, work here, worship here, put our money here -- this is where we like to be."
Friends and family of Mother Goose showed up Tuesday for a surprise retirement bash at First Baptist Church -- one that made Hayes laugh and cry with excitement.
"Look, I'm granddaughter goose, and I'm going to read to the children," boasted her 7-year-old granddaughter from a rocking chair at the end of the night.
And that, Hayes said, made her laugh even harder, this time with pride.