New Brunswick

100-year-old former Sears worker's health benefits and insurance axed

Days after Lisa Okill turned 100, her son found out the health benefits and insurance his mother acquired after working 26 years with Sears Canada would be disappearing along with the company.

Lisa Okill managed Sears Canada locations in Ontario for more than 2 decades

Lisa Okill retired in 1982 after more than two decades of managing Sears locations in Ontario. Just days after her 100th birthday, she lost her health benefits and life insurance. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Days after Lisa Okill turned 100, her son found out the health benefits and insurance his mother acquired after working 26 years with Sears Canada would be disappearing along with the company.

Paul Legood said his mother was the first woman to manage a Sears location when the company expanded into Canada. In recent years, he said he was growing more aware of the company's precarious outlook, but Legood wasn't expecting his mother's health benefits and insurance to disappear.

"Her health benefits ended Sept. 30, her life insurance policy ended Sept. 30 because they're no longer paying the premiums to the group plan," said Legood.

The Ontario Superior Court cleared the way on Friday for Sears Canada to liquidate the remainder of its stores. The decision will eliminate more than 12,000 jobs at the chain's roughly 130 remaining stores.

The move will affect not only the jobs of those currently working at the locations, but the 16,000 retirees collecting pensions from Sears.

While Okill's benefits have disappeared and her pension is nearly gone, Legood said he's more concerned about others.

Paul Legood said his mother was lucky enough to enjoy her benefits for 35 years. He worries about the thousands of retirees who will be affected by the Sears liquidation. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

"My mom, I mean she's 100, she got benefits for 35 years and they were excellent benefits," he said. "The people I worry about are people who retired within the last five years."

Legood said he's been keeping the news about Sears Canada from his mother, because of fears for her health. His wife, Margie Legood, said her mother-in-law wouldn't be pleased if she knew other workers had their livelihoods threatened.

"If she didn't have some dementia as she does now, my mother-in-law would be absolutely devastated about what has happened and she would also be angry," said Margie Legood.

Lisa Okill, centre, retired from Sears Canada in 1982. Her son said she was proud to work there and was a great salesperson. (Submitted by Paul Legood)

The couple said they will be able to absorb the loss of Okill's benefits, but they worry about others who don't have the same support.

Margie Legood is upset that executive staff members were continuing to get bonuses, while the benefits of their workers disappear.

"A large amount of money went to the higher CEOs and yet there's not enough money to look after the medical needs of a 100-year-old woman who worked for them for 26 years," she said.


Matthew Bingley is a CBC reporter based in Saint John.