Work at a store or work in a field — for Bev Dornan, the decision was an easy one to make.
Berry picking was the typical summer job for kids in 1966, especially those living in rural areas of the Lower Mainland.
But after five summers spent picking, Dornan, who was 16, wanted something different.
“(Berry picking) is what every child did back then,” she said.
“In those days, this was well out in the country, so you either worked on the farms or this was the only other option for those who didn’t have a ride elsewhere for work.
“So I went from high school berry picking to being a grocery packer in the old, old, old (Otter Co-op) store.”
That was 50 years ago, and Otter Co-op has been a part of Dornan’s life ever since.
Even while she studied at university — Dornan graduated from Simon Fraser University with a bachelor of arts in economics and commerce — she still worked weekends at the Langley store.
The original plan was to become a high school French teacher.
“Once you get out of university, you have all these other thoughts — what you are and aren’t going to do,” she explained.
“Life got in the way and different things happened. I just sort of fit in (at the Co-op) and it has been a good fit ever since.”
Dornan was a single mother with two kids and the job offered the flexibility she needed.
“They allowed me to be a parent and do the job and do what I had to do. They always accommodated me,” she said.
After starting as a grocery packer, Dornan worked in various capacities and departments for the Co-op, and now serves as the general merchandise manager.
“The staff are great, the customers are great … and the job has allowed me to a part of the community,” she said. “I could work my schedule around my community schedule.”
Dornan has served on the local Chamber of Commerce, on various Langley committees, hospital boards and with Rotary. She also served two terms as a Township of Langley councillor.
Typically, her 50th year of service would have been acknowledged once it was completed, but Dornan was surprised at Otter Co-op’s annual employee dinner back in March.
With her two sons and grandkids in attendance, the 66-year-old was presented with a cheque for her years of service.
She plans on using the money to go on an African safari, once she retires.
Still, she doesn’t expect to be boarding a plane anytime soon.
“I love what I am doing and we will see what time brings,” she said. “Who wants to go home and sit on the couch?”
And her employer isn’t in any hurry to see her leave, either.
“She is definitely driven and dedicated and she makes me look good,” said Co-op general manager Jack Nicholson.
“She gets in her — I am going to say 50 to 60 hours per week at the Otter Co-op — and still manages to get all these other things done around the community.
“I truly appreciate all the experience and wisdom she brings to the Co-op just because she has so much history.”