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Woman serves up 35 years at Clear Spring convenience store

August 29, 2003|by JANET HEIM

janeth@herald-mail.com

CLEAR SPRING - Peggy Baker doesn't believe in sick days.

For more than 35 years, she worked at the Sunrise Handi-Mart in Clear Spring without missing a day of work.

"Peggy has a work ethic I've never seen before and probably never will," said Dan Fleming, who has owned the Sunrise Handi-Mart with his wife, Maxine, since 1967. "She came to work with more than the sniffles. One time she came to work with the flu and Maxine sent her home."

Even icy roads and heavy snowfalls didn't keep Baker, 58, from her job, since she walked to work.

"Nothing did. She'd open the pumps and was waiting when the snowplows came through," Dan Fleming said.

"I always went there when nobody else could get there," Baker said."If I couldn't make it to work, we closed."

It was with regret that she retired four months ago. "If I could still stand, I'd still be there," Baker said. "I've got arthritis real bad."

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Peggy was 13 when her father bought a piece of property on St. Paul Road in Clear Spring and moved the family there from Big Spring. Peggy was one of three daughters.

Her father died 31 years ago and she lived with her mother until her death four years ago. Baker never married and has lived in the same house for over 40 years.

After graduating from Clear Spring High in 1963, Baker did babysitting for several years.

In September 1968, Dan Fleming was sent to Vietnam and Baker's uncle ran the store for a year. Baker went to work for her uncle and stayed on.

"After Dan came back from Vietnam, he and his wife, Maxine, treated me like family," Baker said.

She worked 40 hours a week, usually the 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. shift. It wasn't unusual for her to work a double shift if someone else called in sick.

Baker attributes this strong work ethic to her parents. Her father was a Pinkerton guard at Mack Trucks and her mother worked hard at home. "We was taught that - you was to do your job and do it right," Baker said. "And I enjoyed it."

She wishes everyone liked their jobs as much as she did. "I just like to work in general and the people," she said. "My mother always told me that was my second home."

As store manager most of her 35 years at the Handi-Mart, Baker did "everything". The first 19 years she pumped gas, then a deli was added and she moved inside. Her job description changed to making sandwiches, preparing all the salads, hand-dipping ice cream and doing the ordering.

While summer tended to be the busiest season, fall brought hunters and winter meant skiers would be passing through, Baker said.

To recognize Baker's retirement, Dan and Maxine Fleming took out a back page ad in The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail that read, "Thank you Peggy Baker for 35 years of continuous service without missing a day!" Sunrise Handi-Mart was decked out in balloons and flowers with a big banner out front.

Since May, Baker has had more time for one of her favorite hobbies - crocheting. She is busy making afghans to give away.

She still stops in at the Handi-Mart and even gets home visits by some of her regular customers.

So how does a business owner replace an employee like Baker? "It'd take about four people to do it," Dan Fleming said. "You don't even kid yourself and think you can do it. Everyone's pitched in."

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