Commentary By Danny O’Malia
While vacationing with family at Disney World a few weeks ago, I received a phone call from the only daughter of a deceased O’Malia Food Markets’ employee, Al Lewis who had worked for us at the 56th Street sore from the age of 69 until he was 92. Al passed in 2004, about four years after he had to retire due to health.
The gist of the call was that the anniversary of Al’s date had just passed, and every year at this time, Sheila remembers how much working for O’Malia’s meant to Al. She just felt she had to tell me. Having spoken to her, I decided Al’s O’Malia story is worth sharing.
Al had a 42-year career with a company called Metal Auto Parts and then retired but worked a few years part time at two Preston/ Safeway stores. He left there to care for a seriously ill brother. Later he missed the daily contact with fellow workers, customers and suppliers. He was shopping at our store and asked Store Manager Chuck Kelly (still at the Gray Road O’Malia store) and Office Manager Maureen O’Malia (my cousin) for a part time position. They hired him on the spot. He became a fixture over the next 23 years.
On his 90th birthday in 1997, we did an ad featuring Al and managed to have a local TV station interview Al. He wouldn’t stop bagging during the interview. When asked how he stayed so young acting, he answered, “I just keep goin’!” as he loaded a full sack on to a cart.
Sheila once asked Al why he didn’t retire as he got older. His answer was, “It gives me something to look forward to. It’s like a family!” She also shared how Al wanted to follow Chuck when he was transferred out to 86th and Towne but her mom was afraid for him to drive all that way in winter. All was well two years later when Chuck returned to 56th.
Sheila Canada, you made my day! Hope this story makes yours!