May 24, 2017

Pet shop worker crowned ‘Woman of the Year’

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A 90-year-old has been crowned ‘Woman Of The Year’ for being Britain’s oldest full-time employee, still working 40 hours a week.

This week Monica Evans, 90, was branded the UK’s longest-serving employee after working at the same aeronautical firm, in Warwick, for 70 years.

Now Irene Astbury is Britain’s oldest full-time worker as she still puts in a 9am-5pm daily shift at the pet shop in Macclesfield, Cheshire, that she opened with late husband Les.

And the widow’s years of hard graft have finally been acknowledged after a mystery customer nominated her to be Cheshire’s Woman of The Year.

Picking up her ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award today proud Irene declared she has no plans yet to retire from her 36 year-old business.

Irene said: “I don’t see any reason to give up work.

“I love coming here and seeing my family and all the friends who I have made over the years.

“I don’t work because I have to, I work because I want to.

“When people realise I am still working they say ‘good on you’, which is nice.

“I realise I might be one of the oldest women still working and that makes me feel good.

“My gran lived until she was 102, so I’m hoping I’ve got quite a few years left in me yet. I’m not going anywhere.”

Granddaughter Gayle Parks, 31 – who works alongside her in the family business – said it was a mystery as to who nominated Irene for the award.

She said: “We don’t have a clue who put nana forward. When we got a call saying she was short-listed we thought it was a wind up.

“But then we got an official letter and we were blown away. We are so proud of her. It’s wonderful.”

Irene attended a special lunch and ceremony at Eaton hall, in Chester, with granddaughter-in-law Natalie Parks.

Macclesfield born-and-bred, Irene opened the Pet Food Supplies Ltd business 35 years ago with her husband Les.

The store, which was previously The Coin Wash laundrette, was transformed into the pet food shop when Les, who worked as a pet food sales rep, decided to take it on.

Les tragically died in 2007 and Irene asked her grandchildren Gayle and Stuart Parks to take the reigns.

But while not technically ‘the boss’, Irene has continued to work Monday to Friday, 9 til 5pm.

Irene, who lives with her daughter, Lynn, in Sandbach, Cheshire, said: “I love it. I can’t give it up!”

Granddaughter Gayle said Irene is very unique, adding: “She really enjoys coming here and getting stuck in. She’d be bored silly sat at home. This is her life.

“She loves chatting to all the customers. She has served generations for the same families.”

Mum-of-three Gayle has fond memories of helping out in the shop when she was a little girl and said history is now repeating with her five-year-old daughter Evie doing the same.

She said: “Evie loves sitting at the till trying to help us out.”

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