With her retirement forthcoming in days, Betty Ryan was asked for the words she lives by, and how she managed to prevail in a business competitive world.
"Be good and just," replied the affable 82-year-old woman who has served a legion of people over the years.
She gave the service industry all she had over the years and that has been considerable. Accompanying her industry has been a friendly, easy-going and approachable personality that has worn well with her, first with the Village Drug Store, then American Drug and finally with the Medicine Shoppe.
She was found recently behind a counter of the Medicine Shoppe, plying her trademark congeniality. "You people are making too much of this," she protested. I don’t like the idea of retirement, but ...," she said, her voice betraying a touch of self-consciousness.
Betty Ryan has been a fixture in Conway pharmaceutical establishments since the long ago time when she arrived in Conway looking for a job. Bereft of any particular skills, she had difficulty landing one.
"I had to have work, so I visited the unemployment office and made my application for any kind of work. I remember, at the time — this was 1979 — Conway was home to a license plate firm. I told the lady taking my application that I would work there. She rejected that idea and sent me to the American Drug store downtown owned by Dwayne Goode."
That was the beginning of a fruitful association. She and Goode got on famously even tough Ryan’s easy-going personality was in stark contrast to Goode’s, who appeared to be a stern fellow on the outside, yet warm and considerate nevertheless. "He liked me, and I liked him," she said. "I was a good fit and that continued for more than 20 years. Goode had tremendous affection for his employee who, for the most part, ran his establishments.
She found sustenance in the work and put everything she had into it. She dealt with a passel of customers who liked her style. A friendly greeting accompanied every customer visit. She virtually ran the store, in charge of the inventory and an attractive gift shop.
When Goode sold out to a group of Conway druggists, she went along, bringing that Ryan personality with her to the drugstore at the corner of Donaghey and College Avenue in 1998. Here she built a large customer base, thanks to her charisma.
Surprisingly, Ryan is not an Arkansan by birth. She is a native of Detroit, Mich. She found her way to Arkansas when she married an Arkansas man. They set up housekeeping in Danville, and Betty did double duty as a housewife and an employee working at the OTASCO store and later with Western Auto.
When her time for retirement arrives in March, Betty Ryan will be ill at ease and feeling sheepish in the face of adulation that is bound to surround her. Leading the applause will be pharmacist Bill Garrett who has high regard for his veteran employee.
"I’ve never heard her say anything bad about anyone; never heard her complain about having to work sometimes long hours during an association of 19 years," Garrett said. "She is the most gracious, positive person I’ve ever known. But the thing that impresses me most is her compassion, her genuine love of people."
There will be no exotic happenings for Betty Ryan in retirement, only time with six grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.