McDonald's Worker With Down's Syndrome Retires After 32 Years At Restaurant

An inspirational McDonald's staff member with Down's syndrome has cleared his last table under the golden arches after 32 years working for the company.

Fifty-year-old Russel O'Grady first took on the job in 1986 at the Sydney West branch, at the age of 18, and was a popular employee among his colleague and customers.

His supervisor, Courtney Purcell, has called him an 'icon' and the 'best-known person in Northmead'.

She said: "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."

In his 32 years' service to the company, his family members have said the career has really changed Russell's outlook on his life.

Russel O'Grady. Credit: Job Support Inc
Russel O'Grady. Credit: Job Support Inc

His dad, Geoff, told Daily Mail Australia: "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.'"

Geoff explained people have stopped in the street to shake his son's hand, adding: "He's very affectionate, dearly loved and appreciated, to such an extent that we just don't believe it."

Russell started working for the fast food restaurant at a time when it was less common for people with learning disabilities such as Down's syndrome to embark on career paths, but such is his popularity, his brother Lindsay said, he'll be missed at the branch.

Russel O'Grady. Credit: Job Support Inc
Russel O'Grady. Credit: Job Support Inc

"He's kind of blasé about it but loves his work very much. He's pretty cheeky sometimes. He's my big brother and he keeps me in line," Lindsay said.

He started with the company on work experience through the Job Support scheme, but showed how hard he would graft and moved through the ranks, securing a full-time job packing party boxes.

In the UK, there are approximately 40,000 people with Down's Syndrome, but only 8,000 are in full time employment. Fewer than two in 10 people with learning disabilities have jobs, but charities like the Down's Syndrome Association are working to improve the situation.

Russel O'Grady. Credit: Job Support Inc
Russel O'Grady. Credit: Job Support Inc

And two years ago, when Russell celebrated his 30th anniversary with McDonald's, the company had a special cake made for him.

But while he's loved his time working there, he decided that retirement was the best option due to his health.

He may be hanging up his apron for good, but he's an employee whose name will live long in the memory for his co-workers and customers.

Featured Image Credit: Job Support

Rachael Grealish

Rachael is journalist from West Cumbria, recently moved to Manchester for an exciting opportunity at LADbible. She used to work as an editor of a small newspaper, in Cumbria. Outside of work Rachael loves plenty of coffee, running and reading.

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