LAST Friday marked the end of an era in Isabella Street.
After 42 years of loving service, Valda Bertie retired from Chapman and Wood Chemist. It was a position she had held since she was just 17 years old.
If you happened to venture into Chapman and Wood on this auspicious day, you may very well have noticed the celebratory air.
A basket of chocolate was doing the rounds for Val’s youngest customers and the staff members were in party mode.
“She’s so worth it,” said one of Val’s colleagues, Leanne Wiseman. “She’s just amazing.”
It’s a sentiment that all the staff seem to share and when they call themselves a “family” you get the feeling they mean it.
They all seem to share Val’s sense of loyalty too, long service almost a given.
Kim Wilson has worked alongside Val for 27½ years and is probably best qualified to dish any dirt.
“We were rivals,” said Kim laughing as she tells how she was originally employed with Bill Woodgate at Wingham Pharmacy more than 35 years ago.
But there is no dirt it would seem. “Val is the friendliest person, she has always given such good care to the customers,” said Kim.
And it is of course the customers who Val said she will miss most of all.
Generations of local families have come through the store since Val has worked there. As we speak a young woman with a baby says her goodbyes to Val. “I remember when she was a little baby and her mum would bring her in,” said Val. “I love seeing how people have grown up.”
Val’s retail career began at Cess Anderson’s shoe shop and when she started at Chapman and Wood her original boss was Ian Wood. “He was such a lovely gentleman,” recalls Val.
Rita Chapman still worked in the business and Val struck up quite a friendship with Ian’s wife Marie – still to this day the two ladies talk regularly on the phone.
For the past 32 years Michael and Marilyn Levine have been Val’s employers and she will be forever grateful to them.
Firstly they kept Val’s job open for her when she took eight months off to be with her first husband, Graeme Clinch after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Later, their flexibility and support enabled Val, then a single mum, to successfully juggle work and family commitments.
“It’s now time,” said Val of her decision to retire this year.
As one door closes another opens, and Val will not be sitting idle in retirement.
Val might not have customers to care for anymore but she does have a farm, a herd of Murray Greys, nine race horses and nine grandchildren she can now focus her loving attention on.
And when she’s not doing that, she plans to pop back to have morning teas with her “dozen sisters” at Chapman and Wood.