Eighty-four-year-old Charlsie Dean never expected to work for the Exchange for 50 years, but regrets nothing.
“I enjoy working,” Dean said. “I think it’s important to get out, especially as you get older.”
Dean celebrated her golden anniversary with the Exchange at the Fort McClellan National Guard Troop Store with Jesse Martinez, southeast region vice president; Don Sydlik, general manager; John Seward, regional Human Resources manager; and Lucretia Palmer, McClellan store manager.
Palmer organized a small party for Dean, including mini-cupcakes and balloons (see photos of the celebration here).
“The party was such a nice surprise,” Dean said. “Lucretia brought a card that everyone—including shoppers—signed for me. It was wonderful.”
Began Exchange career in ’61
Dean began her career with the Exchange in 1961, when her late husband first joined the Army. Their first assignment was Fort Richardson, now part of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska.
Dean followed her husband throughout his tenure in the Army, working at Forts Bliss and Belvoir before settling at Homestead Air Reserve Base, where they retired in 1991. That didn’t last long, though.
“I guess I got bored,” Dean said. “So I decided to go back to work.”
“Guardsmen will come back to see me and hug my neck. I think some of them might think I’m their momma while they’re here.”
Dean worked part-time for the Defense Commissary Agency before joining the Fort McClellan Exchange in 1999. The Fort McClellan store closed in 2004 following the closure of the installation.
Since 2005, she has been a customer experience associate for the troop store near Birmingham, Ala., working four days a week.
“Charlsie is a pillar of this team and this community,” Palmer said. “Her work ethic and integrity are second to none. We learn from her every day.”
Dean makes connections with everyone she meets—including shoppers.
“Guardsmen will come back to see me and hug my neck,” Dean said. “I think some of them might think I’m their momma while they’re here.”
While the frequent moves and changes in technology have posed some challenges for Dean, she never let that stop her or get her down.
“I’m really lucky,” Dean said. “The Exchange was my first job. Most of my working life has been with AAFES. And it has been wonderful.”