McClellan Associate, 87, Prepares to Bid BX Goodbye After 62 Years
Lucy Hennigar had been working for a sewing machine company in the Sacramento, Calif., area when the company wanted to transfer her to another city. She told the company she wouldn’t move because she had children, so she lost the job.
After she’d been home for a couple of months, her husband, a retired Air Force staff sergeant, told her that the McClellan Air Force Base BX was hiring and suggested she check it out.
“The next morning, I went over and filled out some forms and papers,” Hennigar said. “They asked me a few questions, and then they told me, ‘Go to the BX because you’re hired.’ That’s how fast I got hired.”
Hennigar, now 87, stuck around for more than 60 years, all of them at McClellan
Her long Exchange career is about to come to an end, though, as the McClellan store—which has remained in operation for more than 20 years after the base closed in 2001—is scheduled to close on Nov. 26.
“I’m really, really going to miss the customers,” she said. “But I do have lots of pictures I’ve taken through the years, and I’ll be able to sit down, go through my albums and reminisce.”
Hennigar remembers her start date as Oct. 8, 1960. To put that in some perspective, the movie “Spartacus” had just been released, “The Andy Griffith Show” had just begun its eight-season run and the No. 1 song was Brian Hyland’s “Itsy-Bitsy Teeny-Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.”
“I started in the shoe department at McClellan,” Hennigar said. “I was kind of bashful. I was kind of afraid because I didn’t know what I was going to be doing. And you know, when you’re a new person on board, everyone’s looking at you. But it turned out OK.”
It turned out OK enough that it turned into a career.
“I liked the job,” she said. “I liked the people. It was a job that I enjoyed doing, and I was brought up that when you do a job, you do the best you can.”
Hennigar says she has worked in every department at McClellan except for customer service. She says she has enjoyed every moment at the store and has so many good memories that it’s hard to pick some that stand out. One was meeting NASCAR legend Richard Petty when he visited McClellan.
Western Region Senior Vice President Ronny Rexrode recently presented COO and Western Region challenge coins to Hennigar, who is still known at McClellan for her energy and her strong work ethic.
“The thing that hit me with her is her outlook on life,” Rexrode said. “Her outlook on life is refreshing. She’s 87 years old, she brags about having only missed five days of work, she has a huge smile on her face and a real big pep in her step.”
While Hennigar and some other associates are retiring with benefits, others are PCS’ing to available vacant positions at the Beale AFB and Travis AFB BXs.
Hennigar has two children and five grandchildren, but she is the only person in the family who has worked for the Exchange. She hasn’t retired because she likes her job.
She did leave once, after about 30 years—but after a couple of years, she was back at McClellan for another few decades.
“They called me one day and said, ‘Lucy, can you come in and help for Christmas?’,” she said. “Then after Christmas, they said ‘Lucy, can you stay for inventory?’ ‘Sure.’ After inventory, they said, ‘Lucy, you’re not going.’
“When they called me back, I was tickled to death to return,” she added. “I like meeting people. I’ve gotten along with all of the managers. I get along with all the associates. And man, do I have fun with the customers. I love them.”
For Hennigar, “Family Serving Family” means treating customers the way she would want to be treated. “To me, every customer is special,” she said. “I don’t care how young you are, how old you are, we all need that special care.”
She particularly remembers one case of special care.
“We had one little lady one time come in upset,” she says. “I went up to her and said, ‘Honey, what’s wrong?’ She said, ‘I just lost my husband three months ago.’ I said, ‘Come here, let me give you a hug.’ She looked back at me and said, ‘That’s the best thing you ever could have done.’
Asked about her retirement plans, Hennigar quips, “I’ve got a lot of work at home to do.” She is leaving without regrets.
“AAFES has been very, very, very good to me,” she said. “I can’t say enough about it.”