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‘The Tupperware lady’

LaVonne Keyser helped support her family by selling plastic products

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
LaVonne Keyser, a star manager for Tupperware, poses with some of the plastic containers at her Fort Dodge home.

LaVonne Keyser, of Fort Dodge, wanted a flexible career that would allow her to be there for her children as they grew up.

And in 1958, her husband, Archie, found it for her.

The job was selling Tupperware.

During a party at her relatives’ place in Eagle Grove, Keyser met a woman from Kanawha. That woman was a consultant for Tupperware, a company that sells food storage and preparation containers.

“She wanted me to do a party here in Fort Dodge,” Keyser recalled. “Because my husband and I were already talking about what I was going to do, she asked if I was going to join and my husband said, ‘yes, I would.’

“I never said I would sell it, but he could see that the flexibility of the job would work in our family.”

Sixty-two years later, Keyser continues to sell the wide assortment of plastic products. She is a star manager for the 72-year-old company.

The Iowa couple had just moved back to Fort Dodge when she took the job.

Prior to that, they were living in Green Cove Springs, Florida. Archie was serving in the U.S. Navy at the time.

“He had done one four-year term in the Navy and when he got out we met,” Keyser said. “He was in World War II and because of Korean War he got called back because he was in the reserves.”

Archie, a native of Lehigh, spent a total of eight-and-a-half years in the Navy. While in Florida, Keyser found work at a candy store.

After the two found their way back to Fort Dodge, they married soon after.

“When we got married we said we wanted to raise our own kids,” Keyser said. “We wanted something that was flexible and I could name my own hours. I could have school time with the kids and that kind of thing.”

Keyser, a native of Webb, credits Tupperware for allowing her to be around her children when she needed to be.

“My kids used to say (to their friends,) ‘my mom doesn’t work, she can be your mother,'” Keyser recalled. “Because they didn’t consider that I worked. I could go and hold a Tupperware party at night and my husband would be home. When I had daytime parties my kids were in school.”

After the military, Archie became a truck driver. He worked for M&JR Hakes for 17 years. He then went to work for Brazos.

Tupperware helped to keep finances afloat.

“We were able to put four of my five kids through college without student loans and that was one of our goals,” Keyser said. “And because Tupperware is a generous company, we traveled a lot. I traveled a lot more than I ever expected I would otherwise.

“We were able to take our kids with us sometimes when we went to conventions in Florida. My kids were at Disney World several times.”

Traveling also allowed quality time with Archie.

“Tupperware took my husband and I for cruises and that sort of thing,” Keyser said. “That was a fun thing we never would have had otherwise.”

Archie passed away about 20 years ago.

“Archie and I were married for 48-and-a-half years when he passed away,” Keyser said. “And I miss him every day.”

Keyser remembers her husband as a person who noticed things others didn’t and was always looking to help someone else.

“He could talk about any subject,” she said.”He was a very observant guy. We would be going down the road and he would say I always have to watch this corner because there’s an old farmer that pulls out in front of me or if someone painted their house. It wasn’t something that was in my DNA, but he was very observant.

“He was a guy who helped everybody, whether it was kids who needed their bicycle fixed — I know as a truck driver he spent a lot of time helping motorists who were in trouble. Nowadays he wouldn’t get away with that because there are computers in the trucks and they know how many hours they are spending.”

In terms of Tupperware, the type of products has evolved quite a bit in six decades.

“It originally started out as bowls and serving bowls,” Keyser said. “Then it went to storage and that’s what we are really known for is cupboard storage.”

The sizes are wide ranging.

“There are all sizes of storage containers for storing cereals or chips, coffee, flour, sugar,” Keyser said. “And then they went to utensils. We have cookware and microwavabale pieces.”

Keyser said the microwavable pieces have become popular as “everyone lives fast now and is in a hurry.”

She can sell the Tupperware anywhere.

“We dont have a territory,” Keyser said. “We can sell anywhere. In fact, I have people in my unit who live in Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota. Most of those are people who originated in Fort Dodge and have moved away, but still want to stay in the business.”

As Keyser’s children grew older and moved out on their own, Tupperware became a way for her to make friends.

“I stayed in it during the time we raised our kids,” Keyser said. “I stayed in it because I wanted to be home with them. And then after they were grown, I stayed in it to put them through college. I tell my kids now that Tupperware is my social life.”

Keyser’s adult children have each moved away from the area. Deborah Santee lives in Sioux City. Christine Keyser-Fanick lives in San Antonio, Texas. Angela Keyser is in Snowflake, Arizona. Kevin Keyser lives in Iowa City. Lisa Vega lives in Columbus, Ohio.

Keyser will hold Tupperware parties to demonstrate the products.

“Sometimes we do cooking, microwave cooking or make candy,” she said. “Sometimes people just want to see one particular phase of the product and therefore you adapt to whatever their interest is. We do have Tupperware toys that have been very popular. And when I do vendor fairs I always have to have a Shape-O Ball. That’s the toy we have never had taken out of the line.”

People often recognize Keyser when they see her.

“I’ve made so many friends,” she said. “I can go around town and they know me by name because I’m the Tupperware lady.”

Keyser will be selling Tupperware at The Messenger’s Home Garden and Lifestyle Show in March at the Iowa Central East Campus.

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