Photo by Shawn Nowlin – At 91-years-old, Mary Butler has garnered a reputation for helping Salem Walmart customers in any way that she can.
According to aarp.org, roughly four percent of the working population is 90 years of age and older. When Mary Butler was hired at the Salem Walmart as a greeter in 2016, she was 86. Today, at 91, she still greets customers when they walk through the doors. Standing all of 5’1, Mrs. Butler has become known for her personality and professionalism.
Speaking on behalf of the company, David Brueckl, who is responsible for most of the store’s inventory, said of Mrs. Butler, “she is by far one of the best associates that we have ever had. She treats everyone as if they were a family member and goes above and beyond to accommodate any questions or concerns that they have.”
Thousands of people visit the Salem Walmart each week. Every time that Leon Clark does, he makes sure to say hello to Mrs. Butler. “She always has a smile on her face and has a way of making you feel appreciated. Even when I’m on a tight schedule, I make sure I say a few words to her before I leave,” he said.
Born and raised in Fauquier County, Mrs. Butler grew up in an America that is drastically different today. In 1930, the US population was 123 million. That number today is roughly 329 million. In 1955, the minimum wage was $1.00 an hour. Today, that number is $7.25. The average car price in 1975 was approximately $4,000. Last year, that number was about $30,000.
Mrs. Butler has seen a lot throughout her nine decades of living. One of the best perks of being a Walmart associate, she noted, is seeing so many people of different backgrounds and ethnicities shop under the same roof. Adults of a certain age can remember when that was a rarity.
“We have come such a long way since the 1950s. I have known Mrs. Butler for a few years and we have had conversations about this topic,” Barbara Robinson, 88, said. “It’s a beautiful thing to see so many interracial couples and members of the LBGTQ community shop freely without getting harassed.”
As Roanoke County resident James Davis puts it, here is an example of Mrs. Butler’s kindness, “I was late one day to work because I couldn’t find a certain birthday gift for my daughter. I told Mrs. Butler and she encouraged me to try again in a few days. When I returned later that week, not only did she retrieve the gift I wanted for Ja’Maya, but she also gave me a few birthday party suggestions,” he said. “I will never forget that.”
Mrs. Buter has one daughter and one granddaughter who both live locally. When asked what’s the key to living so long, Mrs. Butler smiled before saying, “treating everyone with respect and dignity, regardless of what they believe or look like.”