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Dr. Tavel manager reflects on long career

More than a few local Dr. Tavel customers likely had to wipe their eyeglasses a bit as they said farewell to Senda Forrest-Oliver.

After more than 41 years working at the local store, she has retired. Her last day was Tuesday.

“I love my job. I love what I do,” said Forrest-Oliver, at a going-away party for her on Monday at the local Dr. Tavel optical store, 1634 E. State Road 44.

In September, the 64-year-old optician was married.

Her new husband said if she wanted to retire, that was fine with him, and she made the tough choice.

Forrest-Oliver, who now lives in Shelbyville, was born and raised in Shelby County and had stayed in the area near Southwestern High School all of her life, she said.

The 1973 graduate of Southwestern joined Dr. Tavel in 1977, and she’s seen quite a lot of changes since that time.

“I remember when I started we had a metal cash box,” said Forrest-Oliver, and she wrote down transactions on a stenographer’s note pad.

Now, everything is computerized; she’s not a big fan of technology, she confessed.

Still, Forrest-Oliver has kept up with the changes, and she said there have been many in the more than four decades since she began working as an optician.

All of the eyeglass frames the store carried back when she started were one price, and there was a limited selection before they began to upgrade.

“We got these new frames and they were $28, and I said people are never going to pay that,” recalled Forrest-Oliver.

Contact lenses at the time she began were either hard or gas-permeable. Then came the newer soft lenses which required regular cleaning with heat or chemicals.

Now, all the contact lenses are disposable, said Forrest-Oliver, so there’s no need for the cleaning equipment or instructing people how to use it.

And, of course, now there is LASIK eye surgery. Laser in-situ keratomileusis, or LASIK, reshapes the cornea, the outer lens of the eye, to correct the vision of patients who have the procedure.

But Forrest-Oliver said the surgery hasn’t really impacted business at the local eyeglass store significantly, noting that some who’ve had it still need glasses.

When asked, she struggled to recall her most memorable experience working at Dr. Tavel for 41-and-a-half years. “There are so many,” she said.

However, she had no difficulty describing her best experience.

“The way I feel about this job; there are so many friends,” said Forrest-Oliver. “I just love people.”

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