Over next to the pharmacy, Kroger on Washington Road sells sympathy cards along with the usual grocery items.
This may be a good time for Columbia County to stop in to buy a few, and maybe just sign them and drop them off at the Customer Service desk there by the front doors. Kroger has lost one of the good guys, and so have we all: Lindsey Yeomans died in his sleep this past weekend.
Actually, Kroger lost Yeomans three years ago, when the Evans store manager retired after working for the company 33 years. The last five of those years were at the Evans store, which Yeomans opened in 1993 after previously managing the Martinez Kroger.
Brenda Knox was Yeomans right arm for the past 15 years as his administrative assistant. He was a great person, she says. He just touched everybodys heart. Everybody loved him.
When Yeomans left the Martinez store to open the new Evans grocery, Knox says she insisted she be allowed to come along. I told him when he left Columbia Road, he was going to have to take me with him or Id quit! she laughs.
He did, so she didnt.
Also following Yeomans was Debra Ellis, who took on the daunting task of succeeding Yeomans as the store manager when Yeomans retired. Lindsey hired me 22 years ago, Ellis says, and the biggest honor I ever had is that he wanted me to have his store when he retired.
And make no mistake: It was his store. I think for the first two years after he retired, he came in every day, Ellis says. He still loved to come through Kroger and tell me what was wrong! This was still his store, and they were still his customers.
It wasnt just well-stocked shelves and a clean floor that were important to Yeomans, though. This was a guy who, when asked, would always respond to a school or charity looking for help for a fund-raising project.
Rarely has a weekend gone by that there werent groups of one description or another, from Girl Scouts selling cookies to firefighters holding boots for Jerrys Kids, standing at the stores front doors soliciting donations.
Yeomans knew that such fundraisers werent annoyances or inconveniences to customers just trying to run in for a jug of milk. He understood that helping those charities or groups helped strengthen the community, too. He was careful to guard the goodwill of his customers that he had so patiently earned, yet knew they wouldnt mind being respectfully asked to buy a few cookies - even though, just inside his own store, the shelves on aisle 6 are piled high with cookies of all description.
Yeomans also, without making a big deal out of it, helped kids get jobs - and not just straight-A students, either. He would give a break to mentally challenged students who wanted to hold a job to gain a few skills and a little dignity; in return, Yeomans got loyal, hard-working kids to bag groceries or stock shelves, while our community got a good example to follow.
For those who werent able to meet him on this side of the great divide, Yeomans big heart beat inside a big guy - Im guessing he stood at least 6 feet 4. Even so, he was easy to miss in the crowd of people who pass through our lives every day, mostly because he was a humble man who never tried to draw attention to himself or his deeds.
In his three years of retirement, the still-young Yeomans - he was just 62 - found the joy of grandfatherhood, something hed passed up just a little, Ellis says, by giving his life to Kroger.
Lindsey Yeomans, just a mild-mannered store manager, gave his life to all of us. Columbia County is a lot better for it, and were awfully sad to see him go.
The Kleenex is on aisle 13.
(Barry L. Paschal is opinions editor of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barrypaschal@ yahoo.com.)
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