The 83-year-old Walmart cashier found herself among a crowd of screaming fans at the 2012 Walmart Shareholder’s Meeting in Fayetteville, Ark. The July meeting marked the 50th anniversary of Walmart and the company was celebrating international success in style. Described as “a big thank-you to associates,” some 4,600 Walmart employees from around the world attended the four-day event that included tours, a fair and a star-studded concert few would ever forget.
From the moment Noe and thousands of others arrived in Fayetteville, they met fellow associates from across the country and around the world. After settling into their rooms at the University of Arkansas, they were led to the Bud Walton Arena for an evening of entertainment.
Noe, who took 162 photos, said she enjoyed watching Carrie Underwood, Steven Tyler and the other artists performing live, but could not always understand the “screaming” of Tyler.
“But I loved Celine Dion and Taylor Swift,” she added. “Lionel Richie was very good. He sang two songs. Justin Timberlake was the MC at the stakeholder’s meeting. He was funny.”
When Noe, an employee with Walmart for 20 years, found out she had been chosen for the all-expense paid trip in July, she said, “I was shocked. Then I felt very honored that they picked me.”
According to Noe, Walmart sends one representative every other year from each store. This year that representative would come from a store that had an even number. That meant Walmart in North Cleveland had the honor of sending someone to its 50th anniversary.
“Our number is 0698,” Noe explained. “The South’s store ends in three. So they did not send anyone this year. Next year the South store will send someone and we won’t.”
More shareholders can go, she explained, but Walmart pays all expenses for only one person from the area who meets a certain criteria. The Tennessee-born senior has an impeccable record — never having had a complaint about her in two decades. When asked about her spotless record, Noe smiled and said, “I enjoy meeting people — talking to them and trying to keep them happy. I really enjoy my job. I’m a cashier. That’s what I’ve been the whole time I’ve been there. I’m still working at register 23.”
Noe ranked the celebrity concert, tour of the home office, visitor center and shareholder’s meeting as “right up there at the top” of her most exciting trips. Looking back on the whole experience, she admits, “it was amazing to me that they would pay everything — the entire expense of the trip! Walmart has been the top company I have worked for and I’ve owned two businesses myself.”
Gisel Ruiz, the chief operating officer at Walmart, was quoted as saying, “There is absolutely nothing more important than celebrating our people and appreciating the difference you are making.”
Noe said Walmart’s founder, Sam Walton, made the difference in the lives of so many people. Her husband, Byrd Noe, worked two years for Walmart before he passed away in 1991. Noe carried his Walmart insurance for 18 months after his death and, as it was ending, decided to go to work for the company her husband loved, keeping her insurance.
“Sam Walton had the right idea. And those running Walmart today keep the same principles Sam had. I love my job. They’ll probably have to carry me out of Walmart,” Noe said with a laugh.
Walmart will celebrate its 50th anniversary all year long in an effort to recognize everything and everyone contributing to the culture of the company and helping make Walmart what it is today. The first Walmart store opened July 2, 1962, in Rogers, Ark.