SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – A special story to celebrate Women’s History Month – a senior in Seminole County who has seen so much and continues to give so much, despite her age.
Mrs. Leola Pertl – who goes by “Le” – is the oldest employee ever to serve at the neighborhood store in the Lutheran Haven, the senior community next to St. Luke’s Church and School in Oviedo.
Once a month, sometimes as often as once a week, Pertl makes the trek across the lawn from her home in the Haven to the Village Shoppe.
Each step is slow and cautious, but for Pertl, it’s worth every bit of effort.
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Pertl is the most famous cashier the Village Shoppe has ever had.
“Just call me Le!” Pertl insisted. “Everybody calls me Le. It’s so formal when you say Mrs. Pertl, I feel like I’m old!”
The Village Shoppe is a thrift store teeming with treasures donated by the seniors who live or lived in the Lutheran Haven.
Pertl’s fame comes from her age. She’s the oldest employee by far. And she continues to volunteer at the store because it keeps her young.
“This one lady would bring somebody in every week, every month, just asking them to guess my age,” Pertl said. “She said it just tickled her so much to see the expression on their face when I would tell them how old I was.”
Pertl said her neighbors visit her regularly while she’s behind the counter just to guess her age. She said one Lutheran Haven resident actually touched her face.
“She put her hands on my chin, actually feeling my cheeks both ways,” Pertl said. “I thought, what is wrong with this woman? You know?! She said, ‘there is no way that you can tell me that you are 101 years old, not with that complexion!’”
“She said, ‘well, what do you use?’ And I said, ‘well, I was raised in Depression years and we didn’t have much in the way of a cosmetic. My mother used to say Vaseline was prevalent. If it’s good enough for a newborn baby, it’s good enough for your face!”
Pertl was born in 1921 in Maine.
“[President] Wilson was in when I was born,” Pertl said. “And then after Wilson came Harding.”
Pertl lived in New York and retired from a career in Washington D.C. before moving to Casselberry.
“I started working August 8th, 1950 at the Pentagon,” Pertl said. She was an assistant to a four-star General.
In 2008, Pertl came to the Lutheran Haven and began volunteering at the Village Shoppe as a cashier. Pertl’s supervisor said the 101-year-old has never made a calculation error.
“I said I’m little old for this but I can count money and well, let’s try,” Pertl said. “And I said well if someone decides they don’t want me, it won’t hurt my feelings.”
Pertl’s family of four generations visits her regularly. Denise, Pertl’s daughter, said the family’s favorite game is “guess great-grandma’s age.”
“She [Pertl] goes to fitness class three times a week,” Denise said. “Now they have 40 people in that fitness classes and there were only about 10 when she started!”
Pertl turns 102 on April 3.
“I am grateful every day of my life that I still have my brain,” Pertl. “I began to think about that after I moved here. There’s so much talk about dementia and Alzheimer’s.”
The Village Shoppe at 2041 West S.R. 426 in Oviedo is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday 1-4 p.m. Only cash is accepted. All proceeds go back into the Lutheran Haven to assist the residents who live there.
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