My year with Mrs. Adams


July 28, 2023

Jerry Schappert

Jerry Schappert

Editor’s Note: This is Part II of a two-part series. Part I appeared in the June issue.

In my column last month, I introduced you to Mrs. Adams, an elderly hoarder for whom, back in 1984, I was tasked with a year-long commitment to rid her of her oh-so-many pests.

It certainly was a challenge those first few months because there was no way I could treat the account in the way in which I was trained. But I learned quickly that a few adjustments here and there made a world of difference. I decluttered her countertops to give the cockroaches fewer places to hide. They retreated to places I could treat.

When I asked her whether she had any steel wool amid all her hoarded goods, she knew exactly where it was. Sealing up every hole or possible entry I could find, suddenly the mouse issue, too, was fading fast.

“You do a good job, Jerry. I like how you work,” she said in her gruff Russian accent.

Building trust

Mrs. Adams was hardened from her life’s journey. I would just work and listen, I learned so much from her. She was interested in my life and wanted to know all about it. Great pieces of wisdom flowed from her lips, and I marveled at what a grand lady she truly was, once you got past her appearance and demeanor.

The only sticking point occurred whenever I tried to explain the value of discarding her infested food and other items. She knew when and where she got every item. For a long time, she was reluctant to let anything go.

One day, about six months in, something clicked: “You gonna need to throw that flour out?” she asked. “Go ahead, young man, I trust you.”

Finally, I felt like I could really help this woman. With each visit,
I took more infested products out to the alley. Her infestation level was extremely low toward the end of her contract.

Life-changing service

Well, the day came when the 12 months were up. With a tear in her eye, she put her hand on my cheek and gave me a hug and a kiss. I had a tear, too. I was getting married soon, and we talked of that often. She reached in her pocket, grabbed my hand and put a wad of money in it, then tightly held on so I wouldn’t refuse. She said I had given her a great new life without bugs and a chance to enjoy the rest of her days.

Later I discovered it was $150, all one-dollar bills. For her, it might as well have been $1 million.
Since then, I have treated mansions and Fortune 500 companies — all of which I’m proud to have serviced and provide with a pest-free environment. But none of those compare. None of those come close to my days with Mrs. Adams and the difference I was able to make.

Pride in pest control? You betcha, and I owe it all to a beautiful lady I knew some 39 years ago. Happy anniversary, Mrs. Adams.

The Pest Cemetery Crew

“Pests are linked to numerous health issues, and pest pros are the front line of defense in protecting children and adults from some nasty pest-related conditions. Taking pride in your
work and striving to be the best you can be directly translate into a healthier community.”
— Johnny Butler, Partner/COO, Sea Coast Exterminating, Richmond Hill, Ga.

“I absolutely have pride. Our industry protects homes, health, property and environment. Without pest control, our lives would be significantly different.”
— Bryce Hamilton, Owner, Termite Depot, Jacksonville, Fla.

“I didn’t have faith in myself going in as a first-time business owner, certified operator and technician. Now that I’m successful, I have pride in where I’ve gone with the business and where I’m taking it — pride that I did not have until I went into the industry and did the right things.”
— Jean Rivera, Owner, Evergreen Professional Pest Control, Citrus Springs, Fla.

“Taking pride in your work puts you on a different level over those who don’t. Pride gets you to go beyond the minimum. In most cases, it gets you to go beyond what is expected, even when you know it will not be noticed.”
— Patrick Wathen, Owner, Yikes Pest Control, Evansville, Ind.

About the Author

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SCHAPPERT is owner of The Bug Doctor, Ocala, Fla., and administrator for Facebook industry discussion group Pest Cemetery. He may be reached at

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