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Chef Riley Kirby, Huntsville Hospital’s Longest-serving Employee

March 7, 2023 | Reading Time: 2 minutes

On March 7, 1963, just a few months after President John F. Kennedy announced an ambitious mission to the moon that would transform Huntsville from sleepy cotton town into the Rocket City, an eager young man named Riley Kirby reported for his first day on the job as a dish washer at Huntsville Hospital.

As the seasons passed, Riley evolved into a talented culinary artist capable of cranking out dependably delicious meals for our patients, visitors and staff. And he’s still going strong.

For his 60th work anniversary on March 7, we surprised Chef Riley with a Kubota tractor to use around his 10-acre farm.

Even though he is now the longest-serving employee in Huntsville Hospital history, Riley says he enjoys coming to work every day and hasn’t given much thought to retirement. “Just to sit at home and do nothing, that’s not for me. As long as I’m in good shape and good health, I want to continue to work.”

Riley wakes up in the middle of the night (he doesn’t use an alarm clock) and leaves home in plenty of time to get to work before his shift starts at 4 a.m. in the cavernous basement kitchen at HH Main. On a typical morning, he buzzes around making everything from pancakes, grits and sausage to roast beef, fried chicken and cornbread.

HH’s elder statesman shared some advice for younger employees who want to enjoy a long and rewarding career: “Come to work on time, do your job, and listen to the leaders. Oh, and go by the recipe!”