- Associated Press - Sunday, March 12, 2017

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) - Wanda Davis recently said goodbye to a place she has known for nearly five decades.

A former resident of Illinois, Davis, 77, began her career at Irish Maid Donuts in Fort Smith in the early 1970s and worked there for 45 years, the Southwest Times Record (http://bit.ly/2njBIRQ ) reported. She said she started at the shop because she liked the owner at the time, Frank Claghorn.

Mr. Frank was a fantastic person,” Davis said. “I really liked him, and I was renting from him too, so I went to work, and he had a lady that fell and hurt her hip, so I took her place.”

Davis performed a variety of duties during her tenure. She helped make and fill doughnuts and worked as cashier. Her favorite task, she said, was waiting on customers. She also served under three different ownerships at just as many locations, including the shop’s present site at 4600 Towson Ave.

She made friends along the way, including Brenda Adair, Claghorn’s daughter. The two women met when Adair worked at Irish Maid Donuts 45 years ago.

“It was kind of a love-hate relationship at first,” Adair said. “She was like, ‘I’m not taking no orders from no young kid.’ As we worked together, she learned that I wasn’t the boss in kind, … and we just kind of moved forward, we just kind of developed a relationship as we worked. Of course, she lived out back of me, and I was divorced during that time, and we just kind of got to be running buddies.”

Adair described Davis as friendly and outgoing, as well as being very well-liked by the customers. She praised Davis for staying with Irish Maid Donuts for as long as she did.

“I think it’s amazing,” Adair said. “It’s just amazing because people just don’t have jobs that long anymore. I mean, they have a job here two years, job there three years. No offense, but Wanda’s old school. She’s like me. You go to work, and you stay with that job unless it goes out of business, closes the doors, or there’s just something there that you just can’t live with. That makes a difference. Old school is hard to find anymore. Nobody sticks with a job anymore. They just don’t.”

Adair said she and her husband bought and ran Irish Maid Donuts from 1995 to 2004. The shop is currently owned and operated by Tim and Sarah Gill.

When asked why she continued working at Irish Maid Donuts for such a long time, Davis responded it was because she liked the both job and the people there, among other reasons.

“… After Mr. Frank passed away, I decided it was more loyal to him to try to keep it going than just walking out and letting it fall apart,” Davis said. “And I did my best. I tried to keep it going the way he taught me how to do it.”

Although many aspects of the business are now different compared to when she started there, Davis said the customers themselves have not changed much.

“We still have customers that came to us when we was up there by Sparks hospital, so a lot of them still comes here, and most of the customers that comes in here says they’ve been coming in here since they were kids,” Davis said. “Actually, I’ve had people come in and say that they come in and remember me when they were kids, and they have kids of their own now and bring them in. … The regular customers, they like Irish Maid Donut shop.”

Davis said she made minimum wage both when she started her career and when she retired.

However, after 45 years of working there, it has all came to end. Davis said that she recently discovered that she has breast cancer. She described the discovery as devastating. She learned during a consultation with a doctor that the cancer would require surgery to properly remove.

“It’s still small, but where it’s at, … he’s going to have to remove the whole breast,” Davis said. “… They’re going to do that in two weeks.”

It was the initial discovery that caused Davis to retire from Irish Maid Donuts.

“I just told them I couldn’t do it because it’s going to be a while before I can come back because I’m going to have to do treatments and stuff like that afterwards, and go through so many tests that I can’t do the job like I should and concentrate on it like you’re supposed to do a job because I believe you put your all on your job and I can’t do it anymore,” Davis said.

Aside from going through the necessary treatment during her retirement, Davis plans to visit and spend time with family members when she is able to do so. Davis said she will miss working at Irish Maid Donuts very much.

“There’s a lot of wonderful people out there,” Davis said. “There’s a lot of sentimental people. Tuesday was my last day. They brought flowers. They put money in my tip jar. My fondest memories (of working at the shop) is the people that came in here, and of course, Mr. Frank, Ms. Pat, his wife. They’re my fondest memory.”

Adair said Davis was the last employee from the original location of Irish Maid Donuts that still worked at the shop before she retired.

“I wish she could have retired under better circumstances, but we’re going to make it through,” Adair said.

___

Information from: Southwest Times Record, http://www.swtimes.com/

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