“Enjoy life while you can. Work hard.” That’s the advice Bea Golombecki, 89, of Swanville has. Turning 90 in a month, she continues to live life to its fullest — working, socializing, playing board games and every so often, giving someone a hard time in a friendly way.
Golombecki has worked at Bob and Fran’s Grocery store in Swanville for 34 years. She tried retiring one year after her children thought it was time for her to slow down, but after a year of retirement, she couldn’t take it any longer.
“I told the kids I was going back to work. I couldn’t stand it anymore. I felt like I wasn’t doing anything and it was so boring,” she said.
Golombecki said the best part about working at the grocery store is the interaction she has with people. There is seldom a dull moment.
Whenever a customer she doesn’t recognize enters, she is quick to make them feel welcome.
“It’s important to get to know your neighbors. If they’re new, they don’t know anyone,” she said.
Golombecki said what led her to start working at the grocery store was her desire to work and to have something to do. Although she and her husband, Ray, had eight children — Ray, Vicky, Jim, Randy, Teresa, Lori, Julie and Tracy, only three were still attending high school.
“There just wasn’t enough for me to do on the farm,” she said.
Golombecki said she met Ray at a local dance. He was a farmer from Flensburg and for many years, the two lived on and operated a farm between Little Falls and Flensburg.
“The first couple of years were hard as we didn’t have any electricity,” she said.
After growing up in Swanville with electricity, she was accustomed to a life with it. It was a special occasion when electricity was finally hooked up at the farm.
“It was exciting to hear the refrigerator kick on,” she said.
Life as she knew it changed drastically after Ray suffered from a stroke in 1987 and had to stay at a nursing home. He died four years later in 1991.
Golombecki continued to live on the farm until she grew tired of driving to work in the winter months. She purchased a home in Swanville in 1998.
At this time, she works at Bob and Fran’s part-time. Besides interacting with the customers, she helps unload freight, stock shelves, grind hamburger and clean.
When she is not working, she enjoys visiting the first grade students at Swanville Elementary School and have them read to her. She helps them and they have the opportunity to expand their reading skills by reading to her.
One thing those who visit her home frequently are aware of is that they will likely not leave without playing a board game first. Golombecki’s favorite games are Canasta and Scrabble.
Usually she and her family members play for quarters. The winner of each game takes home 25 cents.
“It’s the competition that makes it more fun. Even if you play for a penny a game, I am going to go for that penny,” she said.
Golombecki said she’s currently $3.75 ahead of her sister, Valerie Sobania, in the game of Scrabble. However, in Canasta, her daughter, Lori, is ahead of her with about $2, but Golombecki plans and hopes to take back the lead soon.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said.
She also likes to read books and spend time with friends and family. She has 23 grandchildren and 30 great-grandchildren. In addition, her second great-great-grandchild is expected sometime this year.
Knowing her love for Scrabble, one of the family members once gave her a board of Scrabble pieces with the family members’ names on it. Since then, Golombecki keeps adding to it as they arrive.
“There are currently 77 names on it,” she said.
Another thing that keeps life interesting is that she never really knows who will show up at her house. Since the city added Berkey Avenue North of Swanville, her house is sometimes mistaken for the one with the same house number on the north side.
“One time I came home and there was a man washing my windows. At first I couldn’t figure out why he was washing my windows, but it turned out, he was at the wrong house,” she said.
Another time, she had a brand-new refrigerator and stove show up. The list goes on.