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Johnson retires after 44 years

Monday marked the end of an era at the Washington Hy-Vee as Vicky Johnson retired after four decades on the job.

After 44 years of seeing Vicky Johnson doing pretty much every job in the facility, most recently in the scanning department, the workers at Hy-Vee gathered in the front of the store Monday, Oct. 1, to wish Johnson well on her last day. Johnson’s career began in 1974 as Johnson during her senior year in high school. “I always wanted to work in a grocery store,” Johnson recalled with a chuckle. “As I was growing up and going to the grocery store with my mom, she was the best cook, I was around food my whole life... and I remember playing grocery store when I was a little girl. That’s what I wanted to do was work in a grocery store.”

As graduation from Washington High School drew near, Johnson was growing tired of her job at the former Washington Hardee’s. Feeling it was time to seek a job that paid better, Johnson was quickly hired as a cashier at Hy-Vee. She recalls the cash registers that Hy-Vee was equipped with at the time and the hand crank on the back of the register that could be used to complete a transaction if the power went out. She said the technology of the industry has improved, but the basics of the job — providing a “helpful smile in every aisle” — has remained the same. She spoke of how fortunate she has been to work with her great team and met a lot of great customers.

Hy-Vee employee Tammy Starr, who will take over Johnson’s position in the scanning department, recalls Johnson teaching her how to use a cash register when she was first hired at the store in 1980. After a time away from the store, Starr returned in 1990 and Johnson taught her the skills she’d need for the scanning department.

“I’m going to really miss her,” Starr said. “She has been here a long time and knows a lot, so I hope I do her proud.”

Store manager P.J. Hare commented Johnson had been model employee for her entire career. He was hard-pressed to remember a day Johnson missed work or not had a smile. He said she “lives and breathes the Hy-Vee fundamentals.”

“She knows almost every customer by name, what they do, what their spouses do, and their kids,” Hare said. “Losing the culture is what we will miss the most — seeing her in the aisles and interacting with customers and taking care of customers the way Hy-Vee has always done.”

Johnson is planning to spend her retirement with friends and family as well as traveling. She and her husband, Craig, plan to do plenty of day trips.

“There is a lot of Iowa I haven’t seen,” she said.