EDEN — Betty Dudley isn’t looking forward to retirement.
The 90-year-old Kimberly woman, who still holds down a job at the Travelers’ Oasis Truck Plaza in Eden, said she intends to stay employed until she’s 100 — and possibly longer. For the past 18 years, she’s worked nearly full-time hours bussing tables at the restaurant, cleaning floors and even changing the occasional light bulb.
What would she do if she weren’t working? She doesn’t like to think about it.
“I’d be home staring at the walls, I suppose,” Dudley said.
Her managers and co-workers, however, are grateful for her work ethic. Cindy Young, controller for Oasis Stop ‘N’ Go, has known Dudley since she began working there in her early 70s.
“We’re thrilled that Betty stays with us,” she said. “We just couldn’t ask for anybody better.”
Dudley’s co-workers celebrated her 90th birthday earlier this month. Oasis Stop ‘N’ Go employs several people who are in their early 70s, and Young estimates that at least 25 percent of the company’s employees are 60 and older.
“They’re our hardest workers,” Young said.
Dudley was even offered a supervisory promotion some time back, but she turned it down. She said she didn’t want the extra responsibility.
But she did receive an award in 2005 that was given to seniors in the workforce. Dudley enjoyed a paid trip to Washington, D.C. — though typically, she dislikes traveling.
Dudley couldn’t say for sure what has kept her working all this time.
“I never did think about it,” she said. “It’s just another day.”
Dudley grew up in Sidney, Neb., just north of the Colorado border. Her father died when she was 4 years old, leaving her mother to raise her children on her own and manage a farm.
“It was no easy life,” Dudley said.
Still, their farm survived the Great Depression. Dudley’s mother also worked as a cook in a restaurant to make ends meet.
Dudley’s first job, she recalled, was stocking shelves at a store in Colorado. She was 12 years old.
After graduating high school, Dudley began working the switchboard for a telephone company. She liked that job best, but in 1955, she and her husband decided to move to Twin Falls to raise their family.
Twin Falls wasn’t Dudley’s ideal choice for a move, but she’s stayed here ever since. Over the years, she’s taken jobs cooking at the A&W restaurant, sewing toes at the Kellwood hosiery plant, and assisting the elderly at various retirement homes.
“I quit for a little while and I stayed home, and I didn’t like that,” Dudley said.
She started bussing tables in 2000, and she considers the workers there family. Dudley said she probably wouldn’t have to work if she didn’t want to, but she wants to stay active and enjoys talking with customers.
‘All I’ve ever known’
Her job isn’t all Dudley has to look forward to most days. She’s no longer married, but an hour after she gets off work, five of her 27 great-grandchildren come over to her house until their parents get home.
“I just turn ‘em loose and let ‘em go,” Dudley said. “We play games. We don’t run out of cookies.”
She says she has no intention of ever going into a retirement home. At past jobs, she’s witnessed too many people in retirement homes just “give up.”
“I told my kids, if they put me in there I’m gonna haunt ‘em,’” she said.
Co-workers like Young enjoy Dudley’s sense of humor and her knack for speaking her mind. But they do have to get after her for getting on ladders or chairs to change a light bulb.
One regular customer spotted Dudley on a ladder one day and issued her a “citation” that says people 65 or older have to stay off ladders. Dudley laughs at the memory and has the piece of paper as a keepsake at her home.
While she takes the occasional staycation, it’s hard to keep Dudley away from her job. About four years ago, she crashed her car during a snowstorm, and started walking to work, Young said. She probably would have continued the 2-mile trek in the blizzard had someone not picked her up.
Work, she said, is “all I’ve ever known.”