Australian McDonald’s worker with Down syndrome retires after 32 years

Russell O’Grady started working in McDonald’s in 1986.

He has been described as a “local icon”, “dearly loved”, and someone who can be a bit “cheeky” at times, but a McDonald’s restaurant in Australia is saying goodbye to perhaps its most famous worker.

Russell O’Grady has Down syndrome and has become the face of the fast-food outlet in Northmead in west Sydney. After 32 years service, the 50-year-old has announced his retirement.

He started working there back in 1986 as an 18-year-old as part of a support scheme to place people with a moderate intellectual disability in employment.

O’Grady flourished and worked a variety of roles at McDonald’s.

Two years ago, the agency who placed him at the restaurant, Job Support, threw a party for him to celebrate his 30th anniversary in the job.

His brother Lindsey told The Daily Telegraph he was so proud of him.

 

“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,” he said.

In 2012 a video was produced on O’Grady by Disability Employment Australia.
In it, Kathryn Allen from McDonald’s said that “people had come in specifically to see him”.

“From time to time if he’s not on they actually won’t come in to visit us because they are really keen to see him.”

His father Geoff O’Grady told the Daily Mail Australia that Russell had become a local celebrity.

“He’s very affectionate, dearly loved and appreciated. 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’,” he said.

O’Grady is going to spend his retirement on his other passion – tenpin bowling, reports the Daily Mail.

Down syndrome was first described in detail by an English doctor, John Langdon Down, in 1866. It is a congenital condition which randomly affects about 1 in 1000 babies born throughout the world. For more details go to the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association website here.