Local News

August 2, 2018 - 11:31 AM

Luella Huntley may be retiring but she isn’t ready to stop working.
She’s spent more than 70 of her 88 years employed in one capacity or another. She retired Tuesday from Walmart, where she’s worked for 27 years.
Now, she’s already looking for something else to do.
“I’ve always had several jobs. My family’s always been the kind that worked hard,” she said.
Due to her advancing years, she’s thinking a career in companionship would be a good fit.

LIKE MANY teenagers, Huntley started with babysitting in her hometown of Belleville. In high school, she worked at the local movie theater, then for Southwestern Bell.
In 1956, she and her family moved to Iola where she’s had stints at Penney’s, Sears, TG&Y, Greaves Grocery Store, Herff Jones and the local bus depot before she took at job in the electronics department at Iola’s Walmart. For the last three years she’s served as a greeter at Walmart.
Huntley’s daughter, Debbie Jones, lives in Iola, and her son, Dana, in Broken Arrow, Okla.
In her spare time she’s also helped take care of the elderly and estimates she’s cared for about 20 people over the years.
Huntley recalls one of her most memorable experiences came while taking care of an elderly couple in rural Iola. Both used wheelchairs and were asleep in their beds while Huntley kept vigil overnight. At about 10 p.m., three young people drove past and noticed a fire outside the house. They helped Huntley carry the two occupants to safety before local officials arrived. The home was destroyed.
She also recalled a time when someone broke into the bus depot while she was at work. The thief apparently didn’t know Huntley was still in the building, took money from the register and moved on to another business, where he was caught by police.

HER FAVORITE job was selling televisions at Walmart. She wishes she’d kept track of how many TV sets she sold over the course of 24 years.
Huntley said she was pretty good at it.
In fact, she was so dedicated to selling TVs, she didn’t want to take time off to have her hip replaced after she broke it in a fall. When told she needed immediate surgery, she asked, “Can I think about it?”
Then, she tried to sell a TV to the surgeon right before the anesthesiologist put her under.
The switch to become a greeter at the store came with some perks. Instead of being stationed at the front door, Huntley sat on a bench near the exit. She enjoyed thanking shoppers as they rolled their filled carts out of the store. This past Saturday and Sunday, she gave local children popsicles as one of her final acts on the job. She usually hands out stickers to the kids who pass by.
“I’m going to miss the children,” she said. “I also made sure to tell the military men and women, ‘Thank you for your service.’”
A few days before her last shift at Walmart, a little girl approached Huntley at the store. “My dad said to tell you goodbye,” the girl said.
Whatever she ends up doing next, those are the moments she’ll remember the most, Huntley said.

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