OGDEN — When friends and family describe Becky Cottam, lots of lofty words are tossed around.
Tenacious. Committed. Dedicated. Diligent. Meticulous.
And after just a few quick moments of watching Cottam do her job, one finds out the superlatives are justified.
Cottam, 64, is a woman with special needs from Ogden whose multi-decade tenure at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-owned Deseret Industries is about to end. Cottam plans to retire from the Harrisville thrift store on May 10, which also happens to be her 65th birthday.
And in true Becky Cottam fashion, she plans to put in a full day’s work on her final shift.
“This is my second home,” Cottam said Thursday at the D.I. “That’s what I call it.”
She began working at the store in the mid-1970s, when she was 19 and the D.I. was located at 2048 Washington Boulevard. She’s made so many friends there over the years, she’s often stopped, celebrity-style, while out running errands or enjoying her leisure time.
“Whenever I go to Walmart, people always stop to say hi and give me hugs,” Cottam said.
Again, a casual observation of Cottam at work makes it easy to see how she’s made such an impression.
Cottam works five days a week at the D.I., the schedule she’s kept for all those decades. She’s had several different duties during her tenure, but right now she organizes stuffed animals and children’s games and cleans shelves. She carefully scans her aisles, moving the animals and games into their proper places, noticing even the slightest of deviations — if something is out of place, Cottam recognizes it almost immediately.
Dave Mecham, Cottam’s current supervisor, said the woman serves as an example to others working at the D.I.
“She just comes in every day and does her job,” Mecham said. “And she’s great at it. She’s always here and she’s always on time. She’s going to retire with like, more than 1,000 hours of leftover sick leave. It’s going to be a real loss for us when she leaves. Maybe we can talk her into volunteering.”
Mecham’s wish might not be in the cards though, Cottam says, as she’ll have plenty to keep her occupied. She likes stitching and plans to put in some time working at the LDS temple in Ogden. A few years ago, she achieved a lifelong dream and learned to read. Family members say she spends hours reading new words out of the dictionary, a practice that will likely intensify upon retirement.
But even though she’s soon off to new and possibly greener pastures, Cottam says she’ll forever be indebted to the D.I.
In addition to being a thrift store, the D.I. also functions as a nonprofit, vocational rehabilitation facility, according to the church’s website. The organization provides job training for those with physical, mental, emotional or social challenges and helps those individuals find long-term employment and achieve self-reliance.
“We can help someone who is struggling with addiction, unemployment, work behaviors, etc. and help them gain a new life,” said church Senior Communications Specialist Brooke Yates in an email.
Cottam’s sisters, Lana Taylor and Pamela Latamondeer, say the program in many ways has been a salvation for their sister. Through her job at the D.I., Cottam has been able to make friends, pay for an apartment at St. Benedict’s Manor, afford groceries, buy clothes and other necessities.
“This job has really been her life,” said Latamondeer. “For the most part, she is completely independent. She makes her own money, pays her own rent — all of that. And the D.I. has really been a huge part of it.”