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Service with a smile – Becky Watson retires from Kroger after 47 years 

Photos by Jodi Hyde and contributed

Story by Rebekah Yancey 

The year was 1975. Becky Watson was a sophomore at Morgan County High School who yearned to earn her own money and experience a taste of a independence. So, Watson, then Worley, visited Kroger in Hartselle and applied for a job.   

She was hired, and as the years passed, she turned her after-school job – making less than $2 an hour – into a career for 47 years at several Kroger locations in the Tennessee Valley.  

A Hartselle native, Watson – a wife, mother and grandmother – has retired from her decades-long career at Kroger, where she offered service with a smile and where she became family to many of her coworkers and customers.  

Reflecting on how time has changed the grocery industry, Watson said at the beginning of her tenure with Kroger, UPC codes were not used, and employees were trained in all facets of the job – from bagging and stocking to working the cash register, providing customer service and more.  

“Everything had a price, and you punched in all the numbers and figured the tax,” Watson said. “We gave away Top Value stamps that customers could collect and trade in for gifts. When I hired in, we didn’t have baggers and checkers; we did all of it. We even cleaned bathrooms and swept floors.” 

Watson spent several years working in different departments, including the produce and frozen sections, with stints in the dairy and floral areas. She moved up to management relief for 10 years before going into full-time management, where she worked for the remainder of her career.  

“It’s so funny,” she added, “that my last day as a clerk was March 31, 2004,” – and her last day at Kroger was exactly 18 years later.  

Katrina Sharp has been an employee at Kroger for 10 years and has been at the Hartselle location for the previous five. She said Watson is like a second mother. “She’s my Kroger mom,” said Sharp, who manages the floral department. “She has helped me every Valentine’s Day, every Mother’s Day. I think that’s where her passion is. 

“To describe Becky – you can’t put it into words,” Sharp said. “She is one of the most compassionate people I have ever met, and she cares about people on a more personal level. I hope I’m half the woman she is. She’s special. There’s not a lot of Beckys in this world.” 

Drake Posey agreed. “She treats everybody with care. She’s very strong hearted and doesn’t care to get her hands dirty,” he said. “We are going to miss her a lot.”  

James Blake, store manager of the Hartselle Kroger, has known Watson for six years and calls her an inspiration. “She looks out for everybody, takes care of everybody, and she tries to take on too much most of the time, but we all love her and are going to miss her. It’s going to be bittersweet,” Blake said.  

Watson said she is unsure what retirement holds for her yet. Ever busy, she said she will have to force herself to slow down and enjoy the next phase of her life with Tony, her husband of 41 years.  

“It’s going to take some adjustment,” Watson said. “I think my knee replacement was God’s way of preparing me for retirement. 

“Tony wants me to use Kroger pickup for about a month to deprogram myself,” Watson added with a laugh. “He knows that if I walk in there and something is out of place, I’m going to put it in the right place.” 

For Watson, the job has never been just a paycheck. She said working at Kroger has had a profound and lasting impact on her life.  

“It’s not just coming in here and working. People have lives, and you have to be able to feel for them and care about them – there’s so much to it,” she said. “I have ‘Kroger kids,’ many of whom have gone on into management and done big things with their lives. I’ve received so many text messages from all over with, ‘Congratulations, Mrs. Watson!”  

All in all, Watson said she is thankful for her years at Kroger, the relationships she has built and the experiences she has had. The most valuable thing she said she ever received from Kroger was her dog Zoe, who she found outside the store one night while working a late shift. Once Watson’s constant companion, the poodle mix passed away in March at 14 years old.  

“It’s been an adventure,” she said. “It’s so much more than selling groceries.”