AUSTIN, Texas - Eighty-four-year-old Ofelia Garcia is HEB’s longest running retail employee.
The managers, family, and the City of Austin threw her a surprise retirement party and issued a proclamation declaring Dec. 22, 2021 as Ofelia Garcia Day.
The longtime Oak Hill resident worked with the company for 56 years, 30 of them being at the old Oak Hill store, which just closed down and reopened just down the road. She retired in August 2021. She started her career working in Harlingen, Texas.
"I started working for them in 1965. I didn't go to school, this was my school, HEB University," she said jokingly. "I love my customers. I have a passion for them and that's why I've stayed so long."
That passion also gave her strength to put her own health on the line, and work through the COVID-19 pandemic. She even lost three of her close friends to the virus. "It's hard because the people I lost, they were good customers but COVID was so strong," said Garcia.
But Ofelia, affectionately known as "Ophie," kept going, until she physically couldn't work anymore.
"Everybody needed the grocery stores and they were there for us. It's people like Ophie that embody that commitment to the community," said Austin City Council member Paige Ellis (District 8).
We all could learn something from Ophie. "She was at the front door encouraging customers, meeting new customers. Mom always said, ‘I never met a stranger at work’ and that'll stick with us forever," said Victor Garcia, Ofelia’s son.
What's next? Her son said she will be hitting the casinos with her husband of more than 60 years.
"I'm hoping one day if I'm lucky enough to be that age, that I have as much spirit, vigor and energy as she does," said Victor Garcia.
"Find work that’s meaningful to you, and do it well," said Ellis.
Garcia’s attendance was immaculate and that she rarely called in sick. She will be spending her retirement spending time with her four children, 12 grandkids, and two great grandkids.
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