Tammy Valdez-StarkTammy Stark will be the first to admit that being newly retired feels a little weird. Don’t get her wrong, she’s overjoyed to finally have more time to read, spend time with family, and, of course, do lots of quilting. But old habits are difficult to break.

“The alarm still goes off in the morning,” Tammy said with a laugh. “I make myself get up at my regular time around 7 a.m. I may not move as fast, but I do. I get to enjoy my coffee, relax, and take the day as it comes.”

And she deserves every bit of that downtime. Tammy retired on August 21, putting an end to a rewarding 12-year career that saw her assume practically every role imaginable, from legal assistant and office manager to client liaison, scheduling coordinator, Leigh’s trusty gatekeeper, and everything in between. And she did it all with class, determination, and a personal touch clients adored.

“I knew that office inside and out, and you become like a family,” she said. “I will miss everyone there, including the many clients that I got to work with for so many years. I had a wonderful time.”

Most people may not realize this, but Tammy’s relationship with Leigh has always gone well beyond the typical employer-employee setup. Before opening her own firm, Leigh and Tammy both worked at Sawko and Burroughs law firm in Denton. When Leigh made the life-changing decision to go out on her own, she took Tammy with her.

Like any business, there were struggles along the way. In the beginning, the duo shared a very modest one-room office—just the two of them—before eventually expanding into the firm our clients know today.

“It was interesting having to share an office with your employer, but we both worked together so well,” Tammy said. “We did our own thing, and there were times when I forgot she was even there. I’d be on the phone with a client, and even she’d say, ‘I got so busy that I didn’t even hear what you were saying.’ There were growing pains at first, but my goal was that she would always have everything she needed. And I think I did that.”

More importantly, they are dear friends.

“I talked to Leigh about everything. She’s an easy person to talk to, and I tried to be the same for her,” Tammy said. “When her aunt died, I worked with her husband, James, to get some of her aunt’s old clothing, and I made a memory quilt out of them. I made another one for her on the day that I told her I was going to retire. I think she knew it was coming soon, but I also think she hoped that it wasn’t true. We became like family. In fact, she had always told me that I couldn’t ever retire until she was ready to. It was fine at first until I realized I am three years older than her.”

Tammy added, “I never pictured working for anyone for that long, but the time went by fast, and I really had a good time.”

As for if she would ever think about coming out of retirement, Tammy said she will always leave the door open. At the same time, it would really be difficult to give up everything she gets to experience right now. She and her husband, Greg, have a blended family that includes four kids and four grandkids. They’ve recently had time to travel to Florida to visit Tammy’s daughter, Brenda. They also went to Abilene to visit her son, Robert, who is in the Air Force.

Greg’s kids, Cari and Jeff, live in Denton and Rowlett, respectively.

“It would be very difficult to walk away from all of this,” she said. “I have more than enough to keep me busy.”

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