Super Woman

Super Woman

With pride welling in her deep brown eyes, the 70-year-old TCU housekeeper gingerly turns the pages of her photo albums, showing off the faces of students she cheerfully serves each day. In her thick Mexican accent, Lourdes Carpinteyro brags about the students in her pictures, all of whom lovingly call her Lulu. “I call them my bambinos,” she says with a doting smile. “I love all my childrens. I’m very proud, very proud of these kids.”

Lulu began serving TCU 24 years ago when she took a job washing sweaty sports jerseys. To Lulu, the teammates, coaches and managers were like family.

With a chuckle, Lulu remembers collecting aluminum cans so she could afford to cook chicken and rice, Mexican soup and fresh guacamole for the teams to express her appreciation. Today, Lulu works in Residential Services, scrubbing showers, washing windows and vacuuming carpets.

Lulu’s life is quite different from the dream she once had of becoming a hair designer.

As the oldest of 12 siblings in Puebla, Mexico, 17-year-old Lulu stepped into her late mother’s role and went to work as a shampoo girl in a local beauty shop.

“I worry about my father,” she says, shaking her head. “I wasn’t sure if he’d have enough food.”

But at the age of 21, Lulu came to Chicago for a six-month vacation on Valentine’s Day and never moved back home. She fell in love, got married and, once again, she got a job working in a beauty shop, this time in Chicago for $30 a week plus room and board in a small apartment above the shop. However, her sketchbook full of hair designs was never used in the way she imagined.

“I want to be a designer for the hair, but I never go to school or get a license to work in the beauty shop,” she says as she smoothes stray hairs back into place. “I would have if I had the money.”

Instead, Lulu settled for odd jobs, building hearing aids and making tiny parts for torpedoes for an electronic company in Chicago, waiting tables in Fort Worth and harvesting cherries and strawberries in the California fields where she slept with her husband and baby.

Her struggles continued.

When her husband left her after 17 years of marriage, Lulu returned to the home she left many years before.

“I love my country, but it’s very different,” she explained, looking down at her fingers as they trace the wooden tabletop. “The rich are rich, and the poor are poor – forever. We don’t have much money. We can never go to nice restaurants in Mexico … they turn us away.”

And at 38, Lulu found herself with an illness she did not ask for, empty pockets she could not fill and a family unable to help.

Lulu realized her poor diet in Mexico made her ill. And her family denied her the financial assistance she needed because they had not a penny to spare.

“‘Get a job,’ they told me. But I was too old to get a job in Mexico,” she says quietly. “My family made me feel like a stranger.”

But Lulu made it back to America with a $300 donation given to her by a woman she did not know. Three decades later, Lulu lives as a permanent resident with her second husband, Jose, and is glad to be near her four children and seven grandchildren.

And Lulu has a few more kids to look after. Many TCU students have been touched by Lulu’s compassion.

James McCombs, a sophomore e-business major, is a resident assistant in Brachman Hall but lived in Clark Hall last year when Lulu cleaned the dorms.

“The way she interacts with you gives you that feeling like she’s almost your grandma, that you’re everything to her,” he says. “She just has a feeling of love that no other housekeeper has.”

Even Mike Sinquefield, previously the athletics equipment manager and Lulu’s former supervisor, says Lulu treated him like family.

“She always treated me like a son,” he says. “It was more than work for her; it was her family, and she wanted it that way. She’s a jewel of a lady.”

Overcoming many obstacles, spreading joy to those around her, being content when dreams fall through, Lulu says she has no regrets.

While some have urged Lulu to hang up her mop, her love for the job and financial needs keep her working. Since the university has no mandatory retirement age, Lulu says she isn’t planning her retirement just yet.

“I don’t think about my age; I don’t think that I’m 70 years old,” she says. “I’m just happy.”

And students like McCombs are influenced by her life and commitment to her job.

“I think she feels blessed with what she has,” McCombs says, smiling, “and I hope she knows that her job makes a difference, at least in my life. Yes, she’s a housekeeper, but she still does it with a passion. Her attitude has affected my attitude to work harder and with more love.”

In one word, McCombs sums up the beloved housekeeper.

“Selfless,” he says, “selfless.