Central’s “Walmart Grandma” finds strength in smiles during cancer battle

Central — If you’ve visited the Walmart on Wax Rd. in Central, then you’ve undoubtedly met Miss Janice.

The Walmart greeter embodies small-town charm, brightening everyone’s day. Each day, she stands at the store’s entrance, offering greetings and hugs, receiving tokens of appreciation from patrons far and wide. Affectionately dubbed the “Walmart Grandma,” Miss Janice radiates love that permeates the entire community.

“They bring me medals from where they come, like souvenirs and stuff. I have them pinned on my vest and I say they’re filled with love. And even though some of them don’t bring me a medal, they still come in and hug me and I love them to death,” she said.

Jaci Debetaz, a frequent visitor to the store, shares how her daughter eagerly anticipates these encounters, eagerly embracing the opportunity to shower Miss Janice with hugs.

“For the holiday, she dresses up,” Debetaz said. “For Easter, she had a bunny suit on with a big basket with stuffed plastic eggs to put in the hands of the children that were coming out of Walmart. She’s just a really sweet lady and you don’t really see that no more. She really does take the time to make everybody feel welcome.”

This sentiment of genuine care resonates deeply, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts of those who encounter her. Yet, amidst the warmth she shares, there came a moment of adversity. She has held her greeter post for six years and rarely missed a day. However, when she was absent for six weeks, her favorite customers began to ask questions.

They soon found out Miss Janice was facing a formidable foe: breast cancer.

“I found out in December that I had breast cancer,” Miss Janice said. “On January 12th, I went in and they removed the cancer. (They) didn’t quite get it all, so they had to go back in on the 5th of February.”

It wasn’t the only setback Miss Janice has faced in her seven decades. After 20 years in the food industry, she and Paul, her husband of 43 years, opened a retail store. They ran it faithfully for more than four years before losing it in the devastating floods of 2016. 

Just as they survived the floods, she has also survived breast cancer.

“Now once they got that (surgery) over with, I started on my radiation. I did 16 treatments, and finished up (recently),” she proudly boasted. “I was told that (the radiation treatment) would probably make me tired, and I’d lose my appetite and get nauseous, but I had the opposite on all of those. I did not have any of the bad effects. In fact, I had more energy. The first day I got radiation I actually went out and planted nine rose bushes!”

Janice tells us she went to work every day during the radiation, and at 73 years young, she has no intention of retiring or slowing down.

“My grandfather lived within four months of being 101. And I swore I would pass him up! And the way he did it was by continuing to work all the time,” she said.

Miss Janice says she is energized by the little faces who come looking for her every day. Even though she has thirteen grandkids and one great-grandchild, she has no limit to the amount of hugs she can give.

“She embraces my daughter and it’s amazing. Because my daughter doesn’t like anybody. And she really does. I mean, if we go in there, and she’s not there, then she gets upset because she wants to see her Walmart Grandma,” Debetaz tells us.

Miss Janice is undoubtedly a Difference Maker in our book. She’s the kind of sweet soul future generations will tell their kids about in their “back in my day” stories. Miss Janice doesn’t see herself as a main character in any story. She just loves what she does.

“I just love the people. I’m glad to be in the ‘people’ business.”

We’re all glad, too, Miss Janice.

Download the Unfiltered with Kiran app from the Apple App Store and Google Play to stay updated on any new developments.

One Response

  1. We’ve known Mrs. Janice for years and we love her so much!! She brings joy and smiles every time we see her. I love when we get to see her on our occasional Walmart trips. I love that others see her light and made this article happen. ❤️

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Interested in advertising with us?

We’d love to have you on the team! Drop us a line and we’ll be happy to follow up. 


Let's Connect

Follow along on your favorite social media platform and get the latest updates directly in your feed!

Got a tip on a story?

Submit a Tip

Have a tip on a story? Send it directly to our team using the form below!