Accolades pour in for retired SHOPPER ASSISTANT
On Friday, Jan. 13, Skowronski reported for work and was greeted by what he perceived to be exciting news: he would be guest of honor at a 2 p.m. reception.
It was unexpected and bittersweet news. Skowronski was told it would be his final day of employment, a cause for celebration. He was about to turn 65 (Jan. 17), mandatory retirement age for employees, said Tops management. Following a brief tribute from store executives and employees, it was back to work.
His job gave Skowronski more than a paycheck. It gave him a sense of responsibility, that others needed and relied on his assistance. He felt if he didn’t show up for work, customer service wouldn’t be the same.
Developmentally challenged most of his life following a childhood accident, a head injury that impacted his motor skills and to some degree, his speech, Skowronski’s employment opportunities were limited.
His shopper assistant duties at Tops included retrieving shopping carts often left scattered across the market’s sprawling parking lot. The job was very difficult during periods of bitter cold and blowing snow. Heavy rain during spring and summer presented other challenges.
His family told The Bee that “Teddy often came home soaked down to his socks and underwear. He always placed more devotion to his job and helping store customers than he placed on his own comfort.”
Tops Markets and other area employers receive small government benefits and other incentives when they provide jobs for the developmentally challenged and disabled. Skowronski appreciated his opportunity. His loyalty to his employer went beyond reasonable expectations. One day after work, Skowronski — being driven home — spotted a carelessly discarded shopping cart. He got out of the car, collected the cart and returned it to the store. The episode unfolded nearly two blocks from the store.
What will Skowronski miss the most regarding his job? “When nice people smile at you and say thank you.”
But, while he will no doubt spend the next few weeks and months reflecting on what he loved to do, it will be he who will be missed.
One local shopper, Sheila Murphy of Aurora, said, “Teddy was never at a loss for words. Wind him up, let him go and he’d ask how you like the weather; deliver the latest on plaza gossip; politics, you name it.”
Murphy said that whenever she visited the plaza, even if not shopping for groceries, she would go out of her way to search out “Teddy” in the Tops lot just to say hello.
West Falls resident Larry Calleri said he routinely looked for Skowronski when he shopped.
“He was nothing short of amazing,” said Calleri. “I’ve never seen anyone work so hard. He was always looking out for anyone who needed help loading groceries. He’d drop what he was doing and rush over to help.”
Christmastime for Skowronski was magical. During the holiday season, shoppers rewarded him with gifts including cards that contained a lottery ticket, sometimes cash. One kind shopper gave him a gift-wrapped pair of new gloves.
So, a new chapter in Skowronski’s life begins. His family says, “Teddy will adjust. He always has.” Now, they relate, he suddenly has attained “rock star” status. When spotted at a local restaurant or event, he is recognized, “fussed over” and saluted by members of that legion of Tops shoppers he was always ready to assist.
Note: His family has agreed that a card or note wishing Skowronski well will help boost his morale. If you’re among that legion of shoppers who were on the receiving end of his warm and friendly work ethic, you can address your letter to: Thaddeus Skowronski, 10817 Darien Road, Holland, NY 14080.
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