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Remembering a Friend Who Could Brighten the Day of Anyone She Met

by on December 10, 2018 5:00 AM


There is an oft repeated quote that says that people won’t remember you for what you said or did, but that they will remember you for how you made them feel.

I will remember Kathy Miller for how she made me feel.

Kathy and I struck up a friendship one day as she checked me out at Wegmans. Her meticulously applied make-up and her long, painted fingernails made her stand out. I told her that I liked her perfume and she shared the story of how it was her favorite and that it had been discontinued. She laughed as she told me she had bought up as many bottles as she could find. I don’t think I was having a particularly bad day that day. I just know that my day got so much better after chatting with Kathy.

From then on, if Kathy was working, I would wait in her line – even if there were other, shorter lines available.

As she scanned and bagged my groceries, we talked about the weather. We talked about church after we found out that she was actively involved in the church where we took our children when they were younger. She talked about her family. She asked me about my kids. I knew she was from Altoona. She talked about her great-granddaughter. She never failed to tell me that she and her husband read my articles. We would sometimes reflect on whatever topic I had covered that week.  

She was a bright spot in any day.  

I spend a lot of time at Wegmans. I remember as a kid my mother doing the weekly or even bi-weekly grocery shopping and then always having exactly what she needed to feed a family of six for the next week. That is a skill that I’ve never mastered. In the rare times that I make out meal plans or bring a list, I inevitably end up having to go back for something I forgot or didn’t know I needed. I bump into friends at Wegmans more than I do in other social settings. One day, one of the teenagers who checked me out said “I see you here all the time.” It made me laugh.

When you spend a lot of time somewhere, either at the grocery store, the coffee shop or a favorite pub or restaurant, you get to know the employees. Those employees who embrace customer service or who are just “people-people” make a difference in how we feel about that shopping, dining or customer experience. In my former life of dragging three little kids along with me to the grocery store or out to a restaurant, people could make or break the experience.  

Kathy Miller somehow knew that. With a warm smile, a laugh and reaching out to her customers, she made a difference.  So simple yet so grand at the same time.

I have been inspired by the number of my friends who, unsolicited, have shared their sadness about Kathy’s passing. I don’t think I had ever had a conversation with any of my friends about Kathy’s friendship and being one of our favorites at Wegmans prior to this weekend. Her bright light apparently shined on many of us.

In this day and age of disconnection, technology, online shopping and isolation, great customer service and the “retail relationship” is rare and therefore so valuable. The lesson in Kathy’s friendship and loss is that I missed an opportunity to let her know what her smile and friendship meant to me. I should have let one of the higher ups at Wegmans know that Kathy was one of the reasons I kept coming back. I should have let Kathy know.

I won’t let that happen again.

I stopped at the customer service desk at Wegmans on Saturday and found myself tearing up. I asked the women at the desk if there was any kind of collection or community effort on behalf of Kathy. She said that many customers were calling and stopping by to ask the same thing. She mentioned that Wegmans’ corporate office would be doing something but that individuals who wanted to recognize Kathy were encouraged to do so as well.   

According to her obituary, donations in lieu of flowers can be made to Good Shepherd Catholic Church, 867 Gray's Woods Blvd. Port Matilda, PA 16870 in Kathleen Miller’s name.

I may not remember what she said. I may not remember what she did. I will remember her smile, those long blue fingernails on Penn State football weekends and how Kathy Miller made me feel.



Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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