By Karen Billing
Chances are if you’ve visited the Elam’s Hallmark shop in Carmel Valley’s Piazza Carmel, you have run into Angie Osborn. The energetic, charming and lovable Angie, who will turn 84 in May, has worked in the store for 13 years and is known affectionately as “The Card Queen.”
“My Angie,” sighs Kitty Miller, the store manager for the last eight years. “She’s an inspiration to all of us. At her age she has more energy than it seems the rest of us combined. She has a really kind heart and a work ethic that you just don’t see anymore. I just can’t imagine this store without Angie in it.”
Osborn works two days a week, Mondays and Thursdays, in the card aisle, but not behind the register because she has been 50 percent deaf since she was a child. She makes sure the cards are well-stocked and helps pick out the perfect sentiments for customers.
“She’s just a shining example for all of the younger girls that work here. Everyone here respects her and we would do anything for her, she’s just a remarkable human being,” Miller said. “I would hate for that work ethic to go away with her generation and I think that work ethic has had an impact on the younger generation that works here.”
Osborn has lived in her home in Pell Place for eight years, in a stylish and tidy unit two doors down from her daughter Cindy. All three of her children, including Tina and Jeff, live locally.
In her bedroom, she keeps a small tabletop Christmas tree that she says is the “tree of her life,” with ornaments thoughtfully picked out that perfectly represent different pieces of her. There’s the Italian salami, olive oil, garlic and loaf of bread ornaments that reflect her love of Italian cooking, and a Macy’s shopping bag to reflect her impeccable style — she has outfits planned out (with matching jewelry) for weeks ahead of time. There’s a red lipstick because she wears it every day and a snowy cabin ornament that reflects the six months out of the year she lived outside of Yellowstone National Park with her husband for 12 years, the “happiest time of my life.”
There’s a broccoli ornament to represent her love of salads, but she admits she doesn’t like broccoli and right now is on a bit of a kale kick.
There’s a stack of books ornament because she reads one to two books a week, walking to the Carmel Valley Library to check them out and promptly returning those that use too many four-letter words.
There’s a timer to reflect her exercise — she rides her cycle every day, often crocheting while she rides. She used to have a standard bike but she tore her meniscus using it so much so for the last three months she has used a sit and cycle machine that is much easier on the knees.
Atop the tree is a crown that proclaims her the Card Queen of Hallmark.
“I’m so grateful to go to that job, that job has been my salvation,” Osborn said, noting how much she loves the people who work there and the customers. “To have a job is a blessing, to work is a gift.”
Osborn was born in Salt Lake City to humble beginnings. She said her father was “poorer than a church mouse” but she and her siblings were well-taken care of, despite the fact they wanted Wonderbread like their peers and their mom baked all their bread at home.
Her parents married in an arranged marriage and she keeps a portrait of them in her living room on the first day they met, their wedding day. She points out that her mother, then just 15 years old, did not look very happy. But the marriage lasted 72 years until their deaths, her father at 98 and her mother at 90.
Osborn was born 50 percent deaf although she didn’t know it until she was 15 years old and she got the lead in an operatic theater production in school. She said she couldn’t hear the music and they replied they were playing it as loud as they could.
A doctor confirmed her hearing impairment and it was a wonder, given that she had always excelled at music.
“The operatic turned out fine,” she said. “The lead and I weren’t supposed to kiss but we did anyway. We really got heck from the teacher.”
Her hearing impairment kept her from believing she could get a job until she aced a business course and obtained a job as a secretary from a man named Bill, whom she ended up marrying nine years later.
“He said to me to get a hearing aid and he would help me and that was the beginning of somebody that really cared,” Osborn said.
Bill and Angie moved to San Diego in 1991 from Salt Lake City. Osborn was married before Bill and still keeps close connections with her extended family there.
Last year she was happy to celebrate her grandson’s graduation from Chapman University and to travel to Texas for another granddaughter’s wedding. It was an Indian wedding and Angie wore a sari and received as much attention dancing around as the bride did. Another grandson will be married in March and she already has her outfit picked out and her dancing shoes ready.
Bill passed away 10 years ago and she has kept herself extremely busy.
“I’m grateful that I have so much energy,” Osborn said.
She works at Hallmark those two days a week and volunteers at the Solana Beach Presbyterian Church’s Senior Center, helping set up and take down tables for events, helping with the newsletter and playing some canasta.
Recently, she took up tap dancing.
She has always loved music.
“My favorite thing to do is to dance to music,” Osborn said. She puts on “fast tunes” and will dance several times a day, as one of her favorite quotes says in a frame on her wall, “like no one is watching.”
“It seems Angie has friends wherever she goes,” said Miller. “She’s a wonderful person and I’m so blessed to have her.”