Final patrol for Harpur Centre’s Bill as he retires after four decades of service

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Bill Iles - 40 years of service to Bedford

A familiar face to Harpur Centre shoppers has retired, after 40 years of service to Bedford.

Security Supervisor Bill Iles made his final patrol of the Harpur Shopping Centre last week, since starting work there back in 1981.

Bill has been a familiar face to generations of Bedford’s shoppers and was surprised by retailers, his colleagues and close family on Wednesday (27 May) who cheered him off into retirement.

Known as the ‘go to man’, he has seen so much in his time as Security Supervisor at the shopping centre. His knowledge, caring manner and no-nonsense presence made him become the face of the Harpur Centre.

Bill has led the team and shared his experience and knowledge to countless colleagues, shop teams and managers whilst ensuring the safety of our visitors was his top priority.

Being one of the original first aiders and fire wardens, he has saved Bedfordian lives, bandaged up hundreds and evacuated the building more times than anyone.

He has even proudly helped deliver a baby and lost count of how many visitors, young and old that he has reunited with loved ones, or shoplifters detained.

Bill started his career at Caters supermarket when the Harpur Centre opened in 1979 and was soon employed by the centre and has remained a loyal employee ever since.

Bill (centre) in the 80s

Due to the pandemic and the closure of all non-essential retail last year, he delayed his retirement until he could reopen the Centre with us to welcome back stores and shoppers showing true dedication to his role.

At 69, it is now time to enjoy retirement with his wife, family and granddaughter who was eagerly awaiting his arrival at his surprise send-off.

Bill said, “Thank you all very much for turning up. It’s been a pleasure working here for forty years. I have made great friends, memories and hope I’ve served Bedford, the Harpur Centre and its amazing community well. It’s been an honour to be ‘Harpur Centre Bill’ but now it’s time to enjoy precious time with my wife, family and friends.”

Samantha Laycock, one the dozen Centre Managers Bill’s worked with over the years, said, “William has touched many of our lives, helped thousands and been an award-winning leader, mentor and father figure to generations.

“He will be forever remembered as ‘Mr Harpur Centre’ and personally helped ensure we continued to be the beating heart of the town. We would like to thank him for his decades of service and wish him all the best on his well-earnt retirement.”

If you would like to send personal well wishes or share your memories of how he touched your life, please contact the Harpur Centre through their social media pages on Facebook and Twitter and they will make sure he gets your messages.

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