McDonald’s worker with Down’s Syndrome retires after 32 years of loyal service

McDonald’s worker with Down’s Syndrome retires after 32 years of loyal service

An Australian man with Down's syndrome, who has worked at the same McDonald's restaurant for 30 years, has finally retired at the age of 50. Russell O’Grady was 18 years old when he first began his work experience at his local McDonald’s restaurant: a branch situated in Northmead branch in Australia.

Russell excelled in his job at the restaurant and has been employed there ever since, working diligently for 32 years thanks to a disability employment initiative spearheaded by Jobsupport - a specialist service which helps achieve employment for people with moderate intellectual disabilities in Sydney and North Melbourne.

Russell began working at the McDonald's branch back in 1986: a time when people with intellectual disabilities were uncommon in the workforce. Despite this, Russel was a pioneering employee, after he impressed his managers with his hard work packing party boxes. Eventually, he was given other responsibilities in the restaurant, and has even performed duties in the kitchen.

A McDonald's drive-thru. Credit: Getty

McDonald's supervisor Courtney Purcell claims that O'Grady has become something of a local celebrity in Northmead, stating: "We've got regular customers who come in to see Russell on Thursday and Friday, and the staff look after him, so we're going to miss him," and O'Grady's brother Lindsey stated: "He's kind of blase about [the job] but loves his work very much. He's pretty cheeky sometimes. He's my big brother and he keeps me in line."

In a previous interview, Russell's father Geoff O'Grady stated: "He's very affectionate, dearly loved and appreciated, to such an extent that we just don't believe it ... Somebody said to him ''are you handicapped?'' and his answer was ''I used to be when I went to school, but now I work at McDonald's.'"

He added: "Without [Jobsupport] lots of people like Russell wouldn’t have the jobs they do today and they wouldn’t have the reward that that gives them; which is pride, a boost of their self-esteem, and feeling important and belonging in society It gives them a reason to be."

An image of Russell O’Grady as a teenager. Credit: JobSupport

Indeed, it seems as though Russel will be leaving behind a lot of friends and admirers who will be sorry to see him go; since many customers make the trip into the restaurant just to see him and say hello. According to his family, Russel came to the decision to leave his job after much contemplation and thought, believing the choice to be the best option for the sake of his own long-term health.

However, he apparently won't be lacking for hobbies to keep himself occupied in his spare time. Russel is said to be an avid tenpin bowler, and currently spends most of his time off time at Northmead Bowling Club, the men's shed at Richmond. It truly is incredible that Russel has been such a loyal employee for so long, but personally, after three decades serving shakes and fries, I think he's more than earned himself the opportunity to put his feet up, don't you?