She came home to stay: Betty Stirewalt will retire from Food Lion on 87th birthday Friday

Published 12:05 am Saturday, April 30, 2022

Betty Stirewalt and her husband, Glenn, lived in Bluefield, West Virginia. Glenn was a banker there and Betty worked at the local Kroger grocery store. But home was always the China Grove area where their daughter lived. Betty and Glenn decided it was time to come back home so Betty applied at the Winn-Dixie store on Highway 29A, or South Main as some call it. She got the job in 1994 and she’s been in that same store ever since. Food Lion bought the store and Betty stayed right where she was.

Seldom missing a day of work, Betty will retire on Friday, May 6. The store has been home for 28 years and she will leave it on her 87th birthday. But not before she thinks back over all the memories of her home and family in the store. Food Lion Store Manager Melissa Hughes said, “Betty is like a mom to me. We’ve talked about a lot of things, a friendship way beyond work. Betty has been thinking about retiring for about two years, but she always decides to wait just a little longer. She’ll say let’s wait until after the next holiday or the first of the year. In my nine years, she only missed 2-3 days. The corporate office wanted her not to work during COVID. She stayed away a week!”

Starting as a trainer, Betty helped open the Winn-Dixie store. She ran the fruit bar, then managed produce before becoming a floor manager. For Food Lion, Betty managed the spices, cosmetics, and feminine and medicine products. But she’s spent the most time recently as a cashier and works five days a week, from 6:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. She drives herself to work, except when her husband wrecked her car.

Betty said, “I’ve never had a bad day, one when I would say I’m not coming back. It’s always a pleasure to be here. All my co-workers are super to work with. First thing on Wednesdays, I get on my radio and start my day with “Good morning, Food Lion family!”

Not sure what she will do in retirement, Betty said she will plan to read a lot. She added, “I’m not a traveler. I will stay in touch by phone with a special group of co-workers who have become strong friends. But mostly, I will be sad because I’m not here. But I will be spending time with my other family, Glenn, daughter, Deborah, and son, Jonathan.”

The Food Lion workers had plenty of good things to say about Betty. Gail Leonard, who started two years ahead of Betty, said, “Doesn’t matter your mood, Miss Betty will make everything better.”

Anna Harris, a co-worker for 6½ years, said, “Betty is loving, kind and gracious to all. She’s just a great friend!”

Reba Shaffer added, “She’s a wonderful Christian lady. I will be calling her a lot and we will keep doing things away from work.” Shaffer has 37 years of grocery experience, joining Food Lion in 2005.

Denise Raywood agreed, “Betty is so willing to help with anything. She will always go the extra mile.”

Hughes said Betty’s last week will be special. She said, “I’ve been telling everyone in the store and the customers that Betty is retiring. I don’t want them mad at me when they see she’s not here. Her daughter thought Betty would probably die working in the store, but instead we are going to make this coming week memorable. She’s still one of my fastest cashiers and the customers love her. Betty even keeps up with what day her regular customers will stop in and she’s likely to have part of their order ready at her cash register. People will pass an open register just to visit with Betty.”

As the days dwindle toward Friday, Betty said, “I just have lots of favorite customers. I will get teary eyes and probably do more talking. I will miss seeing them. And nobody is better than Melissa, plus all our department managers, all the girls at the front and office management, they are just so wonderful to work with. I’m not mentally ready to retire, but it’s time physically.”

Then she added, “Would I do it all over again? I sure would! I’ve enjoyed every day.”