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Living life as a toy story

March 23, 2003

Lolita Harper

Pat Huak is putting a little leisure back in her life.

After vowing to work until her 80th birthday, the former toy store

employee has surpassed her goal and now spends her time walking her

scenic Corona del Mar neighborhood and attending as many sporting

events as possible.

With six grandsons in the area, all involved in various sporting

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events, that task in itself is a full time job, she joked.

"I felt pretty good staying at Toy Boat until I was 80," Huak

said. "I was definitely the oldest one there, but I kept up pretty

well."

Huak looks back on her days at the Toy Boat store in Corona del

Mar as more fun than work. She loved to spend time in the quaint

little store and considered it an honor to help shoppers customize

their gifts.

"People would walk in and ask my opinion on what they should buy

for a 5-year-old," Huak said. "It's very flattering to know that

people value your opinion, even if you don't know the person they are

buying for."

The 80-year-old was not always impartial in her recommendations.

She admitted she had favorite toys in the store and would always push

a customer toward her preferred product. All the employees practiced

that form of favoritism, so really, it was a fair process.

"We all had different toys we tried to push," she said.

Her short-lived career at Toy Boat started as the result of a love

affair with the owner's dog.

"I would see him walking the dog -- her name was Daisy -- all the

time and I absolutely fell in love with her," Buak said. "It was

getting toward Christmas time, and I just asked if he needed any help

at the store for the holidays."

Everybody teases her and said she was hired by the dog. It is a

fond memory for her now, she said, as her recruiter just passed away.

Her seasonal part-time job turned into a four-year stint. And if

home is where the heart is, Toy Boat was Huak's home away from home.

Huak has had a lifetime love of dolls. She is an avid collector of

dolls, but never had anybody to share her passion. Although she is

the mother of four girls -- now women -- none of them were interested

in dolls. Six of her eight grandchildren are boys, and the girls are

older and out of state.

But Toy Boat had beautiful dolls. And Huak could share her

admiration for the delicate figures with the customers.

"There were lovely dolls there," Huak said.

Although she is still in the area, Huak said she will miss her

daily interaction with the locals at Toy Boat. And she will dearly

miss "the girls" she worked with at the little shop.

"They are really just so sweet and wonderful to work with," she

said.

The feelings are mutual, her former employees said.

"She was really a super lady," co-worker Kathy Marston said.

Huak is content to spend her days walking in the sun, sitting in

the stands and getting involved around the community, she said. And

although she spent most of her years as a career mother and

homemaker, Huak said she will always be grateful that she was able to

work.

"Sometimes I feel sorry for people who aren't able to work," Huak

said. "It really helps take your mind off yourself, and when you get

older, you can really dwell on yourself. It really is a blessing I

was able to work."

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