Beatrice Doane, of Fredonia, Kan. (pop. 2,600), will celebrate her 100th birthday on March 17. But it’s not age that makes her a celebrity in the small farming community.
The soon-to-be-centenarian has worked for more than 80 years at Doane’s Furniture, the new and used furniture store that she and her late husband, Bliss, opened Oct. 4, 1929.
Her feat has been submitted to the folks at Guinness World Records. She’s awaiting a ruling on whether she will unseat Thomas Stoddard, who holds the record as the “longest employed individual at the same company.”
Stoddard worked at the Speakman Company, a business that makes faucets, showers and sprinklers, from Feb. 16, 1928, until he retired from the board of directors in 2008.
Doane has worked at the family-owned furniture store since the day it opened. The business has experienced many changes and hardships over the years, but Doane keeps going.
“It was really rough going [during the Depression]… but we made it,” she said.
Today, Doane’s son, Roland, runs the store, but Beatrice remains a constant presence at the business.
The mother of four and grandmother of 12 did not let a stroke 10 years ago end her career. Although confined to a wheelchair, she still helps out around the store by keeping the counters neat and answering the phone.
“My mind is as good as it ever was,” she said. “I feel good. I don’t feel my age.”
Her family says it’s her tireless work ethic that keeps her coming to the small store on Madison Street in the southeast Kansas town.
“She’s always done it,” says Justin Doane, her grandson who also works in the store. “It’s just the way she’s always been.”
In the community, the Doane family matriarch has made a big impression.
“She’s very well-known,” said Barbara Vaughn, who owns a fabric store near Doane’s Furniture. “There aren’t too many that don’t know her.”