Raymond Bullard gets up every morning and goes to work. That is not exactly scintillating stuff, but it gets more interesting when we learn two important things about Raymond: He is 90 years old, and he has worked at the drug store in Mount Sterling for 62 years.
Raymond Bullard gets up every morning and goes to work. That is not exactly scintillating stuff, but it gets more interesting when we learn two important things about Raymond:
He is 90 years old, and he has worked at the drug store in Mount Sterling for 62 years.
How he got his start reminds me of “It’s A Wonderful Life.” When Raymond was a young man, he was hired by George O’Neil, the owner of O’Neil’s Pharmacy. The place doubled as a drug store and hardware store, “O’Neil’s Pharmacy: Nails Pills” according to the sign outside.
The sign still says that, though the store doesn’t sell nails anymore. Now, filling prescriptions is the main business but the “nails pills” slogan is a tradition.
Raymond was born Gilbert Raymond Bullard. His father was also a Gilbert, so to distinguish one from the other, folks in Mount Sterling started calling the son Raymond. He was working at O’Neil’s before he went to the Pacific in World War II. When he returned in 1946, he picked up where he left off.
“I decided I could work for him just as easy as I could sit back and draw my $20 a week from the government,” says Raymond. “I just kept working, and in 1953 he passed on and passed the store down to me.”
With the help of his wife, Maxine, Raymond ran the store for the next 35 years. In 1960, Jim Heaton joined the store.
“I was maybe 14 or 15 years old,” says Jim. “He gave me a job sweeping the floor and helping customers. He was a really kind boss. He was the best employer you could ever want and a good friend, too.”
Raymond eventually sold O’Neil’s to Jim. So now, Raymond works for Jim, who used to work for him. Oh, and Jim’s mother used to work for Raymond. It’s a small-town thing.
“I’m pretty well along on my 63rd year there,” says Raymond. “I’m 90-and-a-half.”
I asked him whether, when he hit 65 (which was 25 years ago), he considered retirement. Nope.
“I’m not surprised,” says Jim Heaton. “This is what he likes to do. He works every weekday, comes in about 8:20, we open at 8:30. He checks in all the orders we get and does a 100 percent accurate job of that. He just likes being here.”
At the end of last year, O’Neil’s moved from its original location on Main Street. It had been on Main since about 1862. Now, it shares a building with the Mount Sterling IGA grocery on the east edge of town. Raymond says “they carved out a little corner” for him in the new place.
“People want to know why I didn’t retire,” he says. “I tell them I don’t know how I could be any more retired than I am. I just go up there and sit down and work. I don’t have to worry about running my wife crazy.”
Raymond’s daughter, Karen Jensen, says her dad is the kind of guy who feels guilty if he can’t go to work because he is sick. Raymond and Maxine also have a son, Harold, and another daughter, Charlotte Krueger.
Maxine will be 90 next month and, though she doesn’t work, she is healthy enough that she could if she wanted to.
“And they live in the same house they lived in when I was in high school,” says Karen.
Raymond moved into the house in 1949, but Maxine lived there before that. I’m sensing a pattern here: These people find something they like, they stick with it.
At the age of 90, Raymond will be on the job this morning, just like every morning. But, then, anyone who has checked their retirement fund lately knows we will all be working until we’re 90. Raymond is setting the example for the rest of us.
State Journal-Register columnist Dave Bakke can be reached at (217) 788-1541 or firstname.lastname@example.org.