On November 27, 2009 Sharon Cartwright retired after 37 years of service with Osco. During those years, Sharon worked in the distribution, operations and the pharmacy areas of the business. From 2003 through 2007, Sharon was also the administrative assistant and Connections editor for the Alumni Club. Sharon shares the following recollections with us as she reflects over a long and dedicated career.
It’s mid August 1972. I’m a newlywed of 2 months who just learned that the company I work for is closing their regional office (where I work!). My husband, Jim, is a senior in college and I am the lone breadwinner. Enter my guardian angels, Phyllis and Len Thielen! (Phyllis and I became friends when we both worked at Alberto Culver.) When she learned of my impending unemployment, she told Len. In the 70’s Osco had a referral program where employees would recommend an outside person for possible employment with Osco. If that person was hired and stayed on the job for a certain amount of time (6 months? I’m not sure), then the employee was awarded $25. Well, thanks to Len, I had an interview and ultimately went to work for Ron Grove in Distribution. The EGW distribution center was being built so for several months we were based at Franklin Park, Illinois.
Ron had been without a secretary for several weeks so imagine my “glee” when each desk drawer that was opened contained papers to be filed! (And anyone who knows me well knows that I detest filing!) But I’m proud to say eventually all the papers were properly filed away; 1 in the file cabinet, 2 in the garbage, 1 in the file cabinet, 2 in ….
In early 1973 we officially moved to Elk Grove and, yes, there was no parking lot. Just boulders and construction debris but eventually it became “home”. I truly enjoyed working with Ron and learning the distribution side of the business. Ron’s distribution talent was recognized when he was named vice president in 1974 and transferred to the Oak Brook office. I was asked to join him but there was one problem; transportation. We were a 1 car family and my husband Jim was taking classes during the summer. Ron graciously offered for me to work 3 days in Oak Brook and 2 in Elk Grove (so Jim could have the car for classes).
This was before I-355 so the travel time in good weather was close to an hour from our home. After a couple of months of driving and winter quickly approaching, I decided to leave Osco and went to work for our local elementary school district thinking babies would be arriving shortly.
It was mid 70’s when the tornado hit Franklin Park, Illinois and the surrounding suburbs, ultimately destroying many personnel files (of which mine was one). On the home front, no babies so I decided I better get a “real” job since it looked like I would be a career woman. Around that time (1976) there was a new kid in Distribution, Arlyn White. Well, when Ron started getting calls for references on me while I was job searching, I was contacted to see if I had an interest in interviewing with Arlyn for what basically was my old job. I interviewed with Mark Lessert and began my 19 years (yep, 19!) working with Arlyn. During this time, I’m happy to report that our daughter and son were born; Courtney in 1979 and Jason in 1981 and thanks to Arlyn I was able to adjust my work schedule to make both my “families” happy – my personal and Osco families!
Arlyn was an amazing person to have as a boss. He believed in me before I did. I was the first person to get a personal computer at work. Basically he told me to learn how to use it and determine what manual functions could be streamlined with the pc. I’m sure Lou Rymarczyk “fondly” remembers the hours we spent each year doing the budget on the pc! And just to go on record, yes we survived a strike in the 70’s. Yes, I did “pick” during the strike. Yes, the warehouse flooded numerous times. No, I never rowed to work – although there was one time when Arlyn had me get into a raft and “float” to his desk in the pond. (That’s when he learned I am deathly afraid of the water!)
When Arlyn was named vice president of distribution, I chose to follow him to Oak Brook – this time there was an expressway! I was based in Oak Brook until he departed for Salt Lake in 1995. That was the time many of our executives were being transferred to Salt Lake and I was basically “boss-less” when to my rescue came another hero, Dave Gillis! Dave had just accepted a position at the Jewel offices in Melrose Park spearheading the “Jewel Osco partnership” philosophy and asked if I would join him, which I gladly accepted. I continued to work at Jewel after Dave retired but realized that my “home” was on the drug side.
So in 2000 (with Gerry Bay’s help) I came back to Franklin to work with Karen Ramos in Public Affairs. In late 2001 Karen was asked to head up the department from the Scottsdale office while I was offered a position in Pharmacy Operations. What a great department to close out my Osco career! I thoroughly enjoyed my 8 years working with the pharmacy district managers as well as the pharmacy teams in the stores.
Believe it or not, but all I wanted was a family. Working was something to do until kids arrived. As we all know, life’s road can take you through many turns and obstacles and before I knew it, I needed my Osco “life” to make me a complete and better person. But all good things must come to an end. I want the flexibility to do what I want when I want. (Selfish? Maybe, but it’s “our” time now.) I want to be available to my parents for anything they need (they’re still living in my childhood home). I want to travel with my husband. I want to take classes. I want to sit, read a good book and not feel guilty that I’m “doing nothing”. I want to cherish and enjoy our health and financial stability with my husband, family and friends. And hopefully someday watch grandkids! So the time was right. Leave with no regrets and so on November 27th 2009 I did just that.
To all who I have known and worked with over the years – you are remembered fondly. Sharon Cartwight
Below are some messages to Sharon:
I have known Sharon for many, many years (back to her days at the Elk Grove Warehouse) but had never had the opportunity to work directly with her. She joined our Osco/Sav-on Alumni Club as Administrative Assistant near the end of 2003. She served our organization in that capacity until mid-2007. As President of the Alumni Club I had lots of interaction with Sharon.
First, I would comment on how much fun Sharon was to work with. She was always so upbeat and had a great sense of humor. Sharon is a highly committed person and is definitely a self starter. When a project was pending, rather it be big or small, Sharon would jump right on it.
Sharon was working just part time in the evenings and weekends for the Alumni Club as her full time job at the time was a very challenging position in the Pharmacy Operations Department at 3030. However, she was quite capable of keeping all the balls in the air. She used her terrific planning skills to keep everything, including me, organized. And the quality of her work was always superb.
On behalf of all of the Board, thank you so much for your contributions and able assistance. We hope that you will take an active role in our retirees’ organization and attend all of our social functions.
Roger Carpenter Alumni Club President February 2010
First let me congratulate Sharon on her retirement. Without a doubt, it is well earned for the many years of service, and more importantly, the significant contributions made to the company, regardless of the name on the outside of the building. I was fortunate enough to have worked with Sharon in those earlier years through the expansion of the distribution centers in Elk Grove, at Lunt Ave and Pratt Blvd. Later we moved on to Oak Brook as the company re-organized in 1990. In all that time, Sharon’s abilities made a significant difference both in getting the job done, and taking care of those we served. She had a special skill for handling questions, and getting answers quickly, always with a smile and a sense of humor. Her great sense of humor was demonstrated by her willingness to navigate a rubber raft in our “EGW Pond”, while wearing a snorkel and mask to make a retirement video for Ron Grove!
Sharon did a great job balancing a successful career with her other full time job, raising a family. Congratulations are in order for that job as well.
I hope Sharon is finding retirement “worth the wait”, and is enjoying the time to do whatever she desires. She deserves it!
Arlyn White - February 2010