“She was wearing a blue suit. I still remember that,” he says, smitten with Pat as much today as he was four decades ago.
As new additions to the Walgreens IT staff, John and Pat would get to know each other through eight intense weeks of training among a small, close-knit group, and develop a mutual friendship. But the foundation that would eventually lead to marriage and a family took longer to build. In fact, if not for John’s persistence, the relationship may have never taken root.
“I asked her out six different times, and she said no every time,” he recalled with a laugh. “But the seventh time she finally said yes, so I’m glad I kept at it.”
“It just took a bit of time,” Pat recalls. “He was outgoing, smart and a really nice guy, and at one point I realized he was growing on me, so after weeks of saying no I finally said yes. But I’m very happy that I did.”
After four years of dating while advancing their careers, John and Pat were married in 1988, and two children followed. In the years between, they helped grow a company. On Feb. 3, 2023, they retired, walking out the same doors they’d first walked through nearly 39 years ago, ending their careers at Walgreens the way they started them: together.
Brought together by fate
That their 14,109 days of working together, 34 years of marriage and two children happened at all is owed to a rather amazing twist of fate.
In the spring of 1984, fresh out of Illinois State University where she majored in computer science, Pat had already secured a Walgreens job offer in IT, but John, who had graduated from nearby Northern Illinois University, also with a computer science degree, was told while interviewing that the last entry level IT job had been filled. It wasn’t until several weeks later when one of the other people who had accepted an offer changed their mind and backed out that John got a call offering him the suddenly open position, which he quickly accepted.
And who was the person who turned down the offer that unwittingly opened the door for the two to meet? Pat’s college roommate.
“It was a few months after we started dating that we put the pieces of that story together,” says Pat. “And once we did, we’ve never stopped thinking about how incredible it was that if my roommate had decided to keep her original commitment to Walgreens, John and I never would have met, we never would have gotten married, never would have had our children, never would have had our careers or our friends or our life together. She didn’t know it at the time, but her decision ended up changing a lot of lives,” Pat says with a warm smile.
Building careers, a company, and a family
The couple joined Walgreens at the leading edge of a period of transformation and explosive growth, and had a direct hand in the company’s success, working on major software implementations that became the backbone of its retail and pharmacy operations.
It was a smaller company at a simpler time—before the Internet, email and cell phones—but both understood their work was contributing to something bigger.
“When we started, Walgreens had just opened its 1,000th store,” Pat recalls. “The company was still small enough that we were able to get regular exposure to senior leaders, and we absorbed everything we could from them. It was a great environment for a young person to be in to learn and grow a career.”
Walgreens became part of their family’s DNA. Their kids, Erin and Kyle, who were born in 1993 and 1995, respectively, attended the on-campus daycare center at the company’s headquarters in Deerfield, Illinois, occasionally came to the office with John and Pat, attended company holiday parties, and even appeared in several of the company’s marketing campaigns as young children.
“We’re definitely a loyal Walgreens family,” says Kyle. “I don’t think my mom has ever let us miss a Friends and Family sale. We can still expect the regular family text from her reminding us to shop at Walgreens.”
“People at Walgreens have watched us grow up and helped celebrate milestones in our lives,” Erin adds. “Whether it’s been going to college, getting a first job or getting engaged, our parents’ co-workers—who are also their good friends—have been a part of our family my entire life.”
And those friends are legion. Long hours and shared experiences built camaraderie and bonds between John, Pat and their coworkers that have lasted to this day.
“We were both in IT, so it wasn’t a typical 9-to-5 job,” says John. “There were some late nights at the office, so a large portion of our social life included the people we worked with side-by-side. It’s those friendships that we’ve kept going for nearly 39 years now.”
Their unpredictable schedules, combined with the demands of raising two children, were a constant juggling act. John estimates that in their years of working together he and Pat rode to work together fewer than 75 times.
But they never wanted to be anywhere else.
“Staying at one company for nearly 39 years is a long time, but we never felt tempted to leave. No two days were ever the same because there were always new problems to solve, so it wasn’t boring or predictable,” says Pat. “We knew every day was going to bring different challenges and that was exciting.
“We’ve seen so much change in this company,” Pat continues. “We’ve seen it grow to more than 9,000 stores, with a robust online presence. It's been a really positive environment to work in. And I’m proud of the fact that we've been involved in helping to build something meaningful and been around long enough to see the fruits of our labor.”
Their next chapter together
“We’ve known for quite a while that we wanted to retire on the same day,” says John. “There’s a special symmetry when you can start and end your career with the same company and on the exact same days as your spouse. I’m sure that doesn’t happen often.”
The couple plans to downshift to a more predictable lifestyle, having just bought a house in Bonita Springs, on Southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast, last September, closing on the property just two days before Hurricane Ian devastated the area. Fortunately, they were spared from damage beyond a few uprooted trees, unlike the devastation several miles away.
The Fishers will be snowbirds in the winter and spend the rest of the year in the Chicago area, when they’re not traveling the world. After spending two-thirds of their lives helping to build Walgreens into a retail giant, both Pat and John are looking forward to enjoying life’s simplicities, on their terms.
First up? Getting the new house in order, playing pickleball, and focusing on their daughter’s wedding in July. After that, they’re looking forward to more travel, maybe a Mediterranean cruise or a driving trip to the Western U.S.
“After all these years of work, there’s going to be an adjustment period for us,” says John. “It’s going to be difficult not to call the guys at the office to see what’s going on. Being in Florida will help because it will feel different.”
But Walgreens will never be far away from the Fishers because it will always be part of who they are.
“There wouldn’t be an ‘us’ without Walgreens,” says Pat. “It’s been a huge part of our lives since we were both 22 years old, and we’re incredibly thankful it brought us together, for our careers, the experiences we’ve had and the friends and colleagues we’ve met. It’s a very special place.”