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Meet the Walmart associate who's brought a smile to work for 58 years

By Jon Rumley, Walmart Canada Corporate Affairs

“Lose your smile and lose all your customers,” Walmart founder Sam Walton used to say.

That’s the sentiment Walmart Canada’s Fernande Dubé-Deschênes takes to work with her every day – all 58 years of them.

Today, Fernande is the longest-serving active retail hourly associate in Quebec and Canada. She began working at her store in Granby, Quebec, on Oct. 1, 1963 – one year after the first Walmart opened.

Back then, Fernande joined Woolworth, which later became Woolco and eventually Walmart Canada. Fernande still loves her job 58 years later.

“There’s nothing I don’t like about my work,” the full-time Fashion Associate says. “It’s not just the people I work with that I enjoy, but the customers, too.”

“What’s most impressive about Fernande is she is still working 35 hours a week,” Store Manager Michael Gil says. “She’s always smiling and ready to work! A real gem in our store and a great example to everyone in the store.”

Fernande worked in the store restaurant before taking her current role. She was offered various roles over the years, including fashion department manager, but declined because she didn’t want to change her daily routine, which includes a morning shower, coffee and long walks in the summer.

“I always say ‘good morning’ to everyone, including the night associates,” she says. “It’s important to say ‘hi’ because people appreciate it.”

Fernande enjoys seeing how her store evolves over time to celebrate the different seasons and holidays. By working full-time hours, she’s able to stay up to date with the exciting transformations.

What’s her message to younger associates?

“Take your time and don’t try to rush. If you go fast, you miss out. Slow down so you can really absorb it all.”

Fernande says being named Walmart Canada’s Shining Star of the Year for her local market for the first time in February 2022 was the greatest moment of her retail life.

“Winning this award could extend my career,” she says with a smile. “I’m really happy about it and all the recognition I have received.”

Fernande’s local Walmart surprised her with a massive, custom-made 58-year Walmart badge that was recently presented to her.

“I’m flabbergasted by it,” Fernande says of the badge, adding she’s still trying to find the right place for it because it’s so big. “It was really an honour to receive it and I’m so proud of it.”

Now, she’s challenging other associates to last as long as she has at Walmart Canada.

“It’s a great place to move up in the company,” Fernande says. “It’s a really good company to work for and grow in.”

After nearly six decades of retail work, Fernande has no plans to retire.

“I take things one day at a time. As long as my health permits, I will keep working,” she says. “Good company, good friends – why stop?”