CHIEVRES AIR BASE, Belgium – Few people know the Chièvres Air Base Exchange better than Bernadette “Bernie” Liépin.
Liépin, who works as a supervisor at the Military Clothing Sales Store (MCSS), first pinned her Exchange employee badge in the summer of 1975. Now, more than 47 years later, she takes it off for the last time this month.
“It’s a strange feeling, because when you’re going through tough times, you’re like, ‘Oh, I wish I could retire,'” Liépin said. “And now I am, and I don’t want to go!”
Liépin said she decided to work at the Bourse after her American neighbors recommended it as a summer job when she was a teenager.
“My parents were strict, so I couldn’t go on vacation,” Liépin said. “Therefore the [American] Madam, the mother, she said, ‘why don’t you work on the base during your holidays?’
“And I said, ‘why not?'”
His original plan was to only work at the Exchange for two months, but that goal quickly expanded to nearly five decades.
“It was completely different,” Liépin said. “I liked it and I stayed.”
She started as a salesperson in the clothing department, before progressing to various supervisory positions in the main building of the Bourse, the secondary store “PXtra” formerly located on the installation and the MCSS.
She found she enjoyed working with clients and being able to help solve their problems, especially at MCSS.
“They need help, and when they get help, they leave happy,” Liépin said. “If they leave a little happier, it makes our day better.”
While the jobs haven’t always been easy, Liépin is grateful for the opportunities she’s had and the lasting memories she’s formed with her teammates.
“[I’ve had] lots of good times,” Liépin said. “A lot of work, but also a lot of fun.”
In addition to his stint at Chièvres Air Base, Liépin also spent a year working at the U.S. Army Benelux-Brussels Garrison Shop.
“It was a great experience,” Liépin said. “I loved it there because it was always busy. We weren’t doing big sales…but it was busy all the time.
Keeping busy is something Liépin hopes to continue to do even after her retirement.
Liépin said she’s still looking to figure out her long-term goals, but her first step is to organize her home so it’s ready for the future. She also plans to do volunteer work, pursue her hobbies like walking and cycling, spend more time with her children and grandchildren, and travel, both in Europe and the United States.
“I’m going to stay busy,” Liépin said. “If I’m not busy, I’m not happy.”
While she is thrilled to retire, Liépin said she will miss her work at the Stock Exchange.
“Since I started working 47 years ago, the base has been like my second home,” Liépin said. “I like to handle the merchandise, I like the contact with the customers like I have now… I will miss it.”
However, she has a plan for her final departure.
“I hate goodbyes,” Liépin said, “so I say, ‘see you tomorrow!'”