Around the time Linda (Holderread) Pearl, BS’76, graduated from high school in 1972, she started a job working at her local Kroger supermarket in Plymouth, Ind. Fifty years later, she retired from that very same grocery store.
She didn’t expect to be on the team for five decades, but Pearl liked interacting with different people in the community and the pay was good, so she stayed.
“It was a summer job. It just turned into a very long summer with a whole lot of blizzards in between,” Pearl jokes.
Over the course of 50 years, she held a variety of roles in a variety of departments. Pearl worked as a cashier, trained new staff members, and conducted store tours. She also became a pro at store resets—the process of rearranging all the merchandise.
“My favorite [role] was going around to various stores and helping with resets,” Pearl says. “It was a challenge, and I made a lot of friends out on the road.”
She worked at Kroger all through her college career at IU South Bend, where she earned a degree in elementary education. And it so happened that Pearl’s store manager’s wife was a principal in Plymouth.
“[My manager] would call me at night and say, ‘Helen needs a sub tomorrow, so be at the school at 7:30 a.m. and at the store at 4:00 p.m.,’” Pearl recalls, noting that she was able to run on very little sleep back in her twenties.
She worked as a sub for roughly four years. More recently, she took a part-time job at the Marshall-Starke Development Center—an organization providing programs and services to people with disabilities. She continues that work today.
When Pearl decided to retire from Kroger in 2022, there were several customers who asked to stay in touch.
“It’s nice being in a small community and knowing so many of your customers and knowing their mannerisms and their personality,” she says.
Pearl went on to share a time when her rapport with customers paid off—and saved a life.
She was working in the checkout lane and noticed one of her regulars acting a bit odd. He was known for telling jokes, but that day, his speech was garbled.
“I had him go sit down on the bench, and I called over one of our pharmacists, and we ended up calling an ambulance. He was having a stroke,” Pearl remembers. “They took him to the hospital, and later he came in and thanked me. He told me that my noticing that something wasn’t right probably saved his life.”