Meet Wynnifred Franklin, 94, a great-grandmother who’s worked in the bakery of the Giant supermarket in Audubon, Montgomery County, since 1996.
Works like a charm: “My doctor said to me, ‘Wynn, when you come through the door, you’re not 94 anymore because of this job.’ That made me feel good and that really kept me going.”
Culture shock: When strangers learn Franklin is 94 and still employed, “they’re shocked," she said. "Everybody is fascinated. They say ‘What?!?’ and it’s a big ‘WHAT?!?’ and then ‘No! You don’t work!’ But I do.”
For three years, Wynnifred Franklin enjoyed retirement. But it got old, quick. And she didn’t.
So at the age of 72 — armed with a resumè that included a job at RCA during World War II — she went to a hiring fair for a new Giant supermarket that was opening in Audubon in 1996.
“It took, perhaps, a little bit of being brave,” she said, of applying for a job in her 70s at the Montgomery County store.
But Franklin’s bravery paid off and she was hired as a bakery associate, working on her feet from 6 to 9 a.m. up to six days a week — a job she still works today at the age of 94.
“This changed my life,” she said. “Now I’m part of a team that makes something happen.”
While Franklin may be the only member of the bakery team to use expressions like “Bullfeathers!” and “Oh my stars!” she easily fits in with her wry sense of humor and strong work ethic.
“She gets along with everybody. Everybody calls her Grandmom,” said Anna Inzone, bakery manager. “A lot of people are proud of her because they don’t think of anybody working at 94."
Franklin, who grew up in Haddonfield, graduated from high school in 1942 and went on to work in the purchasing and accounting departments of RCA Camden during World War II.
She married Charles Benjamin Franklin in 1949. She has five children, two grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
For about 20 years, Franklin was a stay-at-home mom. When her youngest was well into school she took a job with Valley Forge Information Services, answering calls and questions from across the country in the pre-internet era.
She then went to work for Transicoil, where she made motors for nearly 20 years before retiring in 1993.
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By that time, her husband had passed, having died of an aneurysm in 1984, but she’d become close with her neighbor and they kept each other company.
But when the neighbor died, she decided to rejoin the workforce to keep herself busy.
And keep busy she does.
On workdays, Franklin wakes up at 3:30 a.m., showers, and has a bowl of cereal before jumping on her computer and playing brain games like Bookworm, Text Twist 2, and Klondike.
“It wakes me up," Franklin said. “I play games that I have to make decisions.”
At 5:30 a.m., her son drives her to work, where the rolls — which are baked from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. — are just starting to cool. The smells of artisan cheese bread, rosemary bread, and sometimes cookies fill the bakery.
“When they come out of the oven it’s just obscene,” Franklin said. “They smell wonderful."
Franklin individually bags the rolls — at least 250 a day — twist-ties them, labels them, and sometimes puts them through an industrial slicer. She’s also charged with boxing muffins and sticky buns.
And she does it all at the speed of someone a quarter of her age. Franklin attributes her youthful vigor to her sincere interest in others.
“Being a people person is part of it," she said. "They encourage me, just being there. Even the ones that are a pain will very often help you because you have to find out what makes them tick.”
When Franklin’s shift is up, sometimes she’ll do a little shopping at the store, and she often takes home a loaf of the bakery’s olive bread, which she heats for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
“Then I walk around like I made it from scratch,” she said.
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Afterward, she’ll play more brain games on the computer and she’s usually in bed by 7 p.m.
Franklin has never missed a day of work in 22 years. Once, she fell on the job and her manager told her to go the emergency room. Franklin insisted on finishing her shift first.
The next day, she went to work with four stitches, insisting she was fine.
Franklin knows exactly how she got such a strong work ethic: the Great Depression.
“We would see people that had lost their job and they lost their house and you learned from that how valuable [work] really is,” Franklin said. “You just don’t forget that.”
She hopes that like Giant, other employers will give senior citizens seeking a job a chance.
“I hope that they realize that the person, the older they are, maybe the more equipped they just might be,” she said.