Today, Jeri retires from a thirty-nine year career with Veterans Affairs. We’ll miss her. I’ve never known anyone who embodies the ideals of customer service so perfectly.
I first met Jeri when I worked at the Birmingham VA medical center. Jeri worked at the VA Office of Information field office near the medical center. VA had just rolled out a data base to be used by employees in VA Blind Rehab Service. Several employees who were blind came to Birmingham for a week of training on using the data base. I did the training and we did it at the field office.
On the first day, Jeri was there to greet us. She not only greeted us she treated us to coffee and pastries, cakes, and fruit. Jeri’s a great cook! Over the three days of training, she was always there with a smile on her face.
The next time I worked with Jeri it was to learn and test the VA travel package. My colleague, Ellen, came to Birmingham and we spent three days working with Jeri, both learning to use the travel package and testing it for accessibility. Goodness but Jeri knew that electronic travel package! The three of us worked well together and, by the end of the three days, Ellen and I knew it too. We had noted several places in the package where modifications needed to be made in order for employees with disabilities to be able to use the package. Jeri took this information to the developers who fixed the problems so that all employees would be able to use the package.
Six years ago I switched jobs and came to work at the field office. At the time, Jeri was the campus manager. She ensured that my transition to my new job was as smooth as it could be. If I ever needed anything or if I had any questions about just about anything, Jeri either had the answers or would get them.
My Seeing Eye dog, Kismet, developed a real fondness for Jeri. It might have started because Jeri kept treats for her in her office. But the two of them developed a great mutual fondness. Kismet was even known to place her paws on Jeri’s knees so she could give Jeri’s chin a lick. Three or four times a day we’d go visit Jeri. Kismet would get her ears scratched and receive three treats. Lots of times I’d plop down on the floor and we’d talk about work, family, and all sorts of other stuff. Sometimes Kismet decided that we’d sat there yacking far too long and indicate that she thought another treat was in order. She’d march right up to the drawer where Jeri kept her treats and whop it with her paw.
So Jeri, thanks for your friendship. Thanks for being one of the most conscientious hard working colleagues I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. I’ll miss you. Kismet will miss you. Veterans Affairs will miss you.