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Leaving behind big shoes to fill

Published 9:22 pm Saturday, February 2, 2013

DO-IT-ALL BANK WORKER LOVED CUSTOMER INTERACTIONS

Jane Smiths 41 years with Whitaker Bank have been eventful.

In her time as a bookkeeper, teller and most recently a customer service supervisor, Smith has been present for two bank robberies.

She was three months pregnant during the first incident and had stepped away from her window to grab something from the kitchen when she heard someone say, Everyone get down on the floor.

She later discovered a robber had jumped over the desk, taken a drawer of money and left the bank later to be apprehended by authorities.

The second involved a gun.

He didnt shoot anybody, but just having a gun pointed at you is no good, Smith said.

Smith said she has never let those experiences overshadow the relationship shes built with her coworkers and customers, though.

And, she added, shes never stopped loving her job.

At a retirement reception Friday afternoon at Whitaker Bank, friends, family and coworkers visited with Smith and congratulated her on a long career.

Even her first supervisor, Kathleen Black, attended the event. Smith said Black was instrumental in her getting the job.

Oh, I probably put in a good word for her, said Black, who was with the bank for 38 years before retiring in 1988. Thats all you could do. I dont know of anyone who has ever held anything against her.

Smith plans to travel after retirement in her RV. Her first stop will be Gulf Shores, Ala., to visit her son, Rick Upchurch.

She also has two grandchildren and said she looks forward to spending more time with them.

In her time at the bank, Smith has seen the staff downsized from about 45 employees to the current 28 because of the emergence of online banking.

Online banking has also detracted from her favorite part of her job waiting on customers.

She enjoys her window on Main Street where she has the opportunity to interact with the Frankfort community.

Smith has no grudge with technology, however, and has seen it enhance the banks services.

We have a new feature on the phones that sends a text message if someones balance drops below a certain balance, she said. Thats amazing. Its great for the customers.

She also said several software programs have been introduced throughout the years to make the job easier and help employees focus on customer service.

But Smith said from now on shell let the younger employees deal with the technology.

She said shell miss her coworkers and her customers but at 65 years old, she is ready for retirement.

It was just time, Smith said.

Weve got younger people coming on. I decided that it was time to move on and give somebody else a chance and an opportunity.

KROGER MANAGER STARTER HIS 40-YEAR CAREER AS A BAGGER

Ron Wades vest was as busy as his career.

As he mingled with family, friends, customers and coworkers Thursday at his retirement reception, Wade was wearing a red vest decorated with Ill miss yous and words of congratulations. And he wore it with great pride.

It represented 40 years of relationships built during his tenure at Kroger.

Mr. Wade, enjoy it, you earned it, John Pack wrote.

Wendy Riley wrote, Loved working with you!

Wade began his career as a bagger at the Franklin Square Kroger and only stayed in the position for six months. He moved up to be a cashier, and eventually worked in every department. For 30 years, Wade has been a co-manager, serving branches in Louisville, Shelbyville and Frankfort.

But Wade has spent the majority of his years in Frankfort, where he grew up and attended Kentucky State University. Co-manager Janis Allspaw said because of that, the entire town knows him.

Nobodys come in this store that doesnt go, Hey, Mr. Wade, Allspaw said.

And when hes not here, theyll ask, Wheres Mr. Wade? Hes a good guy.

Although Wade plans to visit the store often, Kroger employees are still saddened by the loss.

Weve already cried, Allspaw said. I think hes going to be the most missed person who has ever left.

Wade said he will miss the friends he has made at Kroger just as much calling them his network of support.

When he suffered a stroke four years ago, Wade said the company was extremely supportive during the eight months he was out.

The president sent me cards, Wade said.

I had flowers sent and they even came by the hospital to see me in Louisville.

He was eager to get back to his job then, but his health has finally taken a toll on him.

Ive been around 40 years, thats a long time, he said.

With my stroke, my health is starting to get bad. But other than that, Ive loved my job.

Troy Gaines, Wades nephew, was the one to pick Wade up from the side of the road and take him to the hospital when he had the stroke. Now, hes helping him transition to retirement.

We just got to figure out what were going to do now just to keep him busy, Gaines said. He isnt a fisherman.

But Wade already has plans of his own. He hopes to continue working with the public in retirement so he can continue to meet people hell volunteer with senior citizens and to mentor children.

Until youve worked in public and talked with people, you dont realize all the interesting people you can meet, he said.