Local News

Legacy of love overshadows Wilson woman's sudden death

Posted May 20, 2011 4:29 p.m. EDT
Updated May 20, 2011 10:55 p.m. EDT

— Rochelle Pender's family and co-workers were stunned Friday to learn that the smiling Walmart greeter was dead. Police said employees at the 2500 Forest Hills Road store were chasing a suspected shoplifter Wednesday when someone ran into Pender. She fell and hit her head and died two days later.

"She's just doing her job and was in the wrong place," said Sgt. John Slaughter of the Wilson Police Department.

Store security caught up to Joshua Max Lambert, 23, of 3108 Walnut Creek Drive, Apt. A, and held him until police arrived. Police charged Lambert with two counts of simple assault. He was being held in the Wilson County jail Friday under a $5,000 secured bond.

"She did not deserve to die this kind of death," said Pender's daughter, Teresa Langley.

Langley said she had begged her mother to stop working, but she gave up when she realized how important the role was to Pender.

"A lot of people her age are not even working. She hung onto her job after we lost our dad because that gave her life," Langley said.

Pender's grandson, Tyler Hayes, said he would remember her quick wit and sense of humor. "She was a character," he said. "She was a trip to be around."

A Walmart spokesman said Pender, 71, had been with the company for 15 years and was a beloved member of the team at the Wilson store.

"She's going to be greeting people in heaven now," Langley said.