BATAVIA – Before Dovie Jones came into Walmart on Friday morning, she predicted some type of decoration would be put up for her last day.
What she found were “Happy Retirement” streamers, balloons, a mug and flowers, the first bouquet of which was hidden in a fitting room behind her work station.
“I knew I would get something, but not this elaborate,” Jones, 78, said with a wide smile.
Jones retired from Walmart after 21 years of full-time work between two of the company’s Tri-Cites stores.
She helped open the St. Charles and Batavia locations and closed out her career in Batavia as a fitting room associate.
Jones’ last day was filled with not only her typical duties of organizing clothes and answering the store’s phone lines, but visits from various co-workers who reached down to embrace her 4-foot-7 frame and wish her well.
It’s been a long road for Jones to finally stop working.
She first retired from Lucent Technologies in 1996 after 20 years as a repair operator at their former West Chicago site.
She could have relocated to Arkansas to keep her job, but her mind was made up to stay in St. Charles Township.
She has called the Chicago area home since she left Herrin in downstate Illinois at 18 with her then-husband, who moved to the area for a job.
“My whole life is here,” Jones said.
She says the same thing to her son, Aaron, when he tries to convince her to move back to Herrin.
He showed up at the Batavia Walmart on Friday (to surprise her) on her last day.
People who stay in the workforce after they retire are more common these days than in the past, Aaron Jones said.
“People don’t get retirement [pensions] from corporations anymore – just 401(k)s,” he said.
When she left Lucent, Jones received only half of the pension amount that she otherwise would have received had she stayed for a full 30 years.
With her daughter Niesha still in high school, she started at Walmart in 1993 while she was still with Lucent (formerly known as AT&T). Over time, the Walmart job became a source of comfort for her after her four children moved out and started their own lives.
Jones’ last job was one in a long line of roles she has had over the years in various factories in Kane County. Her experience has taught her to be friendly with customers and assertive with her co-workers when necessary, said Linda Brown, a women’s apparel department manager at the Batavia Walmart.
Brown is Jones’ supervisor, but Jones actually trained her when she first came to the department.
To show her appreciation for Jones, she stayed up until 2 a.m. Friday putting together a sparkly “Happy Retirement Dovie” streamer that was hanging near Jones’ work station when Jones came in Friday morning.
“Everybody can go to her and talk to her, she’s just personable,” Brown said.
Jones plans to visit her now-former colleagues in Batavia and St. Charles during her newfound free time.
And she always has been willing to travel to see her four children, 10 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Beyond that, she just wants to rest.
“I’m just taking it easy for a while, and seeing what happens,” Jones said.