The singsong voice of 66-year-old Betty Parker rings out over the piped-in music at CVS Pharmacy.


          “Hi honey!” she calls out sweetly to a shopper, pausing briefly from her work to catch up on events in the customer’s life.


          For Parker, these greetings happen almost every day that she spends at CVS, where she works as a cashier. With her ladylike Southern accent and bright outlook on life, Parker is an easy woman to talk with. But her relationship with many of her customers goes beyond mere pleasantries.


          It started shortly after she moved to our neighborhood as a newlywed in 1971. A Nashville native, she’d given up a life on the road as a country music singer, imitating Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline, to get married and settle down.


          “It was really a rewarding experience, and I got to do what I’d always wanted to do,” she says of that time in her life. “It was exciting,” she adds — but then, with a smile, she explains why she gave it up. “But my husband was more exciting.”


          After settling into a house on Skillman, she quickly got a job at “Safeway No. 193,” which used to be at the corner of Mockingbird and Skillman. For about 12 years, until it closed down, she worked there doing “a little bit of everything.”


          From there, she went to ME Moses, a five-and-dime store that was housed where Stein Mart is now, at Mockingbird and Abrams. She stayed there until that store closed in 1992.


          Next, she worked at the Drug Emporium, just a few doors down, for 11 years. When that store closed on April 19, 2003, Parker felt more than a little adrift.        


“Every job I’ve had has closed down and left me,” she says. “I’ve begun to think I was a jinx.”


She was also missing her customers, many of whom she’d grown close to after a quarter century at different neighborhood businesses. To Parker, they were more than just people who came into her stores; they were friends who’d helped her get through some hard times, including the death of her husband in 1996. 


          “He was one super old guy,” says Parker, who has a daughter and granddaughter in Irving . “It is kind of lonely without him, and I sure do miss him a lot. But I tell you, all these wonderful people I meet where I work, the majority of them are my neighbors, and I just love ’em all to pieces. I look forward to them coming in, and I think they kind of enjoy me too a little bit. When they come in to say hi, I want to say hi back in such a way that it lightens up their life a little bit and brightens up the rest of their day.”


          So when Parker heard that CVS was opening at the intersection where her old Safeway job used to be, she filed an application right away. For store manager Danny Maywald, hiring her was a no-brainer.


“I knew that if I could find someone that had the personnel skills that Betty has, who would get along with the customers and call them by name and have that one-on-one relationship with them … well, that’s what I was looking for,” he says.


          “There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that someone hasn’t come in this store and recognized her,” he adds. “The customers just love her.”


          And Parker loves them. In a neighborhood where innumerable businesses have come and gone, she says the one constant has been the people.


          “The people are still just the beautiful, wonderful people they’ve always been,” she says. “We have a lot of good Christian people in this neighborhood. And when there’s God in the midst, there’s got to be a lot of good things connected.”