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After life as a pharmacist then a grocery bagger, Chuck Elvig is finally retiring

On the November day he is retiring and

On the November day he is retiring and turning 91, Chuck Elvig, left, a courtesy clerk at Central Market, says goodbye to customers after bagging their groceries. Credit: Seattle Times/TNS/Ken Lambert

“It is with a bit of sadness that I feel the time has come for me to leave Central Market,” he typed out. “I have had 15 happy and enjoyable years … ”

Elvig is 91. Time to call it quits. What did you think, that he was going to write out the letter longhand? Everybody’s on the computer these days.

For those 15 years, Elvig had been a courtesy clerk at the Mill Creek, Washington, store, or what used to be called a grocery bagger.

Before that, he had been a pharmacist for 37 years. Obviously, he’s a guy who likes to keep busy.

He’s also someone who has figured out what makes him happy. It’s kind of simple, really.

No need for him to seek approval from how many times one of his tweets was retweeted. He doesn’t have a Twitter account.

No need to count how many thumbs up one of his Facebook postings had. Neither he nor his wife of 57 years, June Elvig, 87, has an account with the Mark Zuckerberg empire.

“He loves being with people, being around people. He’s not a committeeman, and not one to sit around and watch TV all the time,” his wife says.

Always cheerful

Elvig was the guy at the store with the ready smile, who inevitably remembered you first name. Kids now in high school would remember him from when they were little.

Elvig didn’t have to work at the grocery, which is part of a local chain of six supermarkets owned by Town & Country Markets.

He started out at “$9-something an hour” as a courtesy clerk, and retired last month at “I think $12.80 an hour.”

He and his wife, June, had done OK when they sold the family pharmacy in Brainerd, Minnesota, and from investments in stock and bonds, and from when they sold their 45-acre hobby farm for real estate development.

They moved to the Northwest in 2000 because their three grown children live here.

For a while, the couple kept busy fixing up a house they bought in South Everett, especially the yard because they like to garden.

Then, in 2004, Elvig saw a notice at the North Creek Presbyterian Church they attend. Elvig doesn’t mind at all telling folks that “God has continually blessed me.”

“There was a job fair about the store coming to town,” he says. “I thought, well, I’ll go down and see what’s going on. I talked to different people and they hired me. They never said one thing about my age.”

Back in 2004, Elvig would have been 76.

Elvig worked five days a week to start off, then after a while went to four days a week, and went to three days in the last couple of years. He wanted to have weekends off for church, and for the socials he and June hosted after services.

His work ritual was set. In the mornings, put together a lunch from dinner leftovers, maybe some boiled eggs, or cheese sticks, a slice of homemade pie.

June would drive him the three minutes to work from their condo. Then he’d climb the 20 steep steps to the employee lounge. Including breaks, that would be going up and down the steps five times day.

No problem.

“Keep moving and do things,” Elvig says. Keep moving.

Happy to work

He had hip-replacement surgery 10 years ago. He was out of work for three months. Others might take a longer break.

But, says his wife, it was back to the supermarket. “That’s what makes him happy,” she says.

Because of his age, it was inevitable that as a courtesy clerk, Elvig would take groceries out to the car for customers considerably younger and with no obvious impairments.

He never said it, but, says Elvig, “Gosh, you wonder: No wonder you’re falling apart. You’re not doing anything.”

What a customer such as Lenita Firth remembers is that he was always cheerful, always friendly, always asking, “How are you today?”

So on Thursday, when the store had cake and a celebration for Elvig, she made sure to make it there and hug Elvig.

There was a constant stream of customers, with a Facebook posting about his retirement celebration getting 167 thumbs up or hearts.

Pretty soon, says Elvig, he plans to visit an animal shelter and volunteer. He always has wanted to be veterinarian, but the family pharmacy started by his dad took precedence.

He and his wife also plan to get on Facebook. He certainly has the “likes” optimization stuff figured out.

For more stories about retirement, visit newsday.com/Act2.

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