When Alice Henry asked somebody in Haars Health Food Center if they needed help, she wasn't just being polite. She meant it.
Henry, of Millville, worked at the Vineland store for more than 30 years. She worked there until just two years or so before she died last month, at 87.
And her boss for all those years, Bob Haars, calls her a dream worker - for her boss and her customers. Because she really did try to help everybody who came in, no matter how long it took.
"She would spend hours with some people," Haars said. "Alice would come in and just do and do and do. Sometimes I'd talk to her, and she'd say, 'I'm a little late getting out tonight, but I had a customer who needed help.'"
Henry started working in health food after Haars got in a conversation one day with a young woman in his store. He was so impressed by her intelligence and friendliness that he asked if she needed a job.
"She said, 'No, but my mother's looking for a job, and she comes in here all the time,'" Haars recalled. "So she sends her mom in here, and I talked to this lady for just a little while and hired her on the spot."
That started a career of 30-plus years, and a friendship that grew to the point that Haars calls Henry "a second mom" - the same phrase Bobbi Satterfield, a 19-year store worker, uses to describe her friend, Henry.
Alice Ulbrich, of Millville, is the real daughter who helped her mom get the job. Ulbrich said her mom was already a believer in the products. That's why she was a customer before she was a worker.
Henry got interested as she tried to find natural remedies for arthritis. Later, she tried to help her husband, Bob Henry, improve his sight after he lost it following brain surgery.
"Help" is easily the top word people use when they're asked about Alice Henry, and it keeps coming up in interviews.
"She helped because it gave her joy," said Ulbrich, also known as "Alice Jr." in her family - she's the youngest of her mom's seven children, now in their early 50s to late 60s. "She used to tell me, 'We are a tribe. We all help each other.'"
And at the job where she worked so long, Alice Henry helped even when she wasn't working. Her family and friends say she always was researching health foods and vitamins and herbs on her own time, and passing along what she learned to people in the store - and in her life.
"She knew everything, and she read continuously," said Satterfield, her co-worker. So even though Henry finally retired a few years ago, Satterfield added, "To this day people still call and want to talk to her, want to see her. When Alice passed away, three days later, a woman called here and asked to talk to her."
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