Abertson’s checkout clerk doles out grins as well as groceries
June 9, 2007
Tari Van Leeuwen is about as friendly a person as you’d want to meet. Regular shoppers at the Quarry Village Albertson’s brighten when Van Leeuwen offers up a pleasant greeting and a smile at the checkout stand. She’s been at the store almost two years, but rose quickly to the role of "key." That means the store is hers at night and she locks the door on her way out.
Although she puts in a 40-hour week, the job still plays second fiddle to her family. "That’s the most important thing to me," she says.
Van Leeuwen was born in Granger, Utah, the third of Sally and Riley Turpin’s four daughters. She describes herself as hard-working, friendly, outgoing and very talkative. A confirmed ‘Valley’ girl, she graduated from Granger High School in 1979. Not surprisingly, the ebullient Van Leeuwen was a member of the "pep" club.
"It’s kind of sad because Granger doesn’t even exist anymore, it’s called West Valley City now," she notes with nostalgia.
Hers was a close-knit family that enjoyed camping, fishing, boating and skiing together.
"I was the only one of the girls who liked to go fishing with Dad," she grins. "I helped him fix the cars, stuff like that. I guess I was the son he never had."
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One of her fondest memories is of careening along the mountain trails on her "Tote Goat" scooter.
Van Leeuwen attended Salt Lake Community College and was a student body officer. The ambitious young woman was bound for a degree in communications when her uncle made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. An orthodontist, he needed a dependable assistant for his practice, someone with good communications skills. She put college on the back burner and went to work. While there she met Jim Van Leeuwen, a young dentist at the clinic. "He needed an assistant for his practice so I started working for him too," she says.
One thing led to another.
"When you’re a dental assistant you’re chair-to-chair, knee-to-knee, you know," explains Van Leeuwen. "You really get to know someone and find out pretty quick the kind of person they are. I found out Jim was a great guy."
They began dating in 1987 and were married in Salt Lake City a year later. The newlyweds honeymooned in Hawaii and fell in love with the Aloha state. They’ve vacationed on the islands almost a dozen times since then.
The young couple set up housekeeping in Jeremy Ranch and has lived there ever since. Their son, Matt, was born in 1992. Van Leeuwen took on parenting with aplomb and was a stay-at-home mom until Matt was 12 years old.
"I wanted to be there when my son came home from school," she says.
The Park City lifestyle fits Van Leeuwen like a glove. "I call it living in God’s country," she enthuses. "You have the fresh air, the beautiful mountains and lakes close by and you can still see the stars at night. It doesn’t get any better than Park City." The active wife and mother enjoys boating, water and snow skiing.
"I just like to be outside as much as possible."
Golf remains Van Leeuwen’s favorite sport. While some husbands and wives use golf as an excuse to get away from the family, the sport has drawn her family together.
"We still play as a family on the Jeremy Ranch course sometimes, even though Matt’s gotten so much better than his dad and I," she says.
She’s been involved in Utah Junior Golf with her son for several years, initially as a volunteer and now as a Board member. Junior golf is a state and national competitive golf program for boys and girls from 8 to 18 years of age.
"I took Matt to a lot of tournaments," she says. "We’ve played golf all over the state and at regional and national competitions.
Van Leeuwen bristles with pride when she talks about her son’s accomplishments in the competitive junior golf program. "He represented Utah at the International championship in Williamsburg, Virginia," she glows. "Matt played against boys from China and England. He wasn’t used to playing on Bermuda grass and that threw him off on the first day. I went out with him after his round and showed him a couple of things. He did better the second day."
The proud mom takes some of the blame for his less-than-perfect showing.
"I distracted him on his backswing during a tee shot and it cost him some strokes. I haven’t lived that one down yet and he hasn’t let me forget it."
Van Leeuwen believes golf builds character in young men and women. "It teaches discipline, sportsmanship and honesty," she says. Her son will enter 9th grade next year and is trying out for the golf team in August. She’s hopeful that Matt will make the team."
Like most veteran Parkites, Van Leeuwen cites traffic as her No. 1 pet peeve.
"We really do have way too much traffic. Trying to get around at Kimball Junction on the weekend is a joke," she complains.
Other than that all-too-common lament, Van Leeuwen has no complaints about the Park City area.
"It’s just a great place to live, a great place for a family."
Steve Phillips is a Park City-based writer, actor and balloon pilot/instructor.
Favorite things to do in Park City area: Golf, shop, ski in that order.
Favorite foods: "I love watermelon. I wish they made watermelon birthday cakes!" I also like good Mexican food and lemon meringue pie.
Pets: Kasper, a seven-year-old schnauzer. "She thinks she’s human. Sometimes I think she is too. She’s a funny girl."
Favorite type of music: 1970s rock. "Her favorite group is "Styx."
Favorite authors: "I don’t have time to read much, I’m too busy working and playing. Sometimes I enjoy a good romance novel."