Neighbor: Ross keeps a smile on his face

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 9, 2001

Features Editor

Feb. 8, 2001 10 PM

If life is a game, then Walter Ross plays for the mere love of it.

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At age 86, he works eight hours a day, five days at week in the garden center at Wal-Mart and, there, "friendship" carries him through the day.

"I love people and I love being around them and I enjoy working," he said. "When I’m here at work, friends make my day. I can’t think about not working. Working makes me happy and it keeps me going."

Ross worked at Brundidge Milling Company in his hometown, Brundidge, for 46 years. He did whatever was asked of him, from driving a feed truck to being head mechanic in the shop.

He said working with the late Robert Godwin was a pleasure. "He was as fine a man as I ever knew."

Ross would have been happy working at "Bob’s Feeds" to this day, but, when the plant closed in February 1991, he found himself "retired" at age 76.

Many men would have taken pleasure in fishing from the river bank, putting around in the garden or even rocking on the front porch. But, not Walter Ross.

He still had a lot of get-up-and-go in him and he wanted to be a contributing member of society. He wanted to work.

"I had heard that Wal-Mart was a good place to work and that they would hire older people," he said. "I shopped at Wal-Mart a good bit and I liked the store. I decided I would like to work there if they would have me."

Ross had seven decades and six years to his credit when he walked into Wal-Mart in Troy and said he would like to apply for a job. He had no reservations about entering the job market when many people his age were retired and content.

"I didn’t even give my age a thought," he said. "I wanted to work and they gave me an application, so I knew I had a chance."

Ross had more than a chance. He had a job.

He started off in the garden center, watering plants and stocking shelves, but he was soon offered the opportunity to work in either the sporting goods or hardware departments so he could be inside and out of the elements.

"But, I’m a country boy and I liked being outside," Ross said. "They told me the offer stood and for me to make up my mind where I wanted to work."

As agreeable as always, Ross said he would work "wherever you want me."

With an attitude like that, the choice was his and he stayed put in the garden center. Now, 10 years later, he’s still there. In fact, he’s a fixture in the garden center and many shoppers enter the store through the "garden gate" just so they can visit there with their friend, Walter Ross and he’s always glad to see them.

"I get to see old friends and make new ones," he said.

Ross has friends of all ages and that helps him to stay young.

"Friends make life a joy," he said. "If a man has friends, he’s rich."

That being true, Ross is one wealthy man. Not only does he have countless friends, he has a wonderful family and his health.

"In the 10 years I’ve been working at Wal-Mart, I’ve only missed work a few days and none of those were sick days and that’s a real blessing," he said. "And, I’ve never one time been late to work. Of course, I’m not saying it won’t happen because my vehicle might break down, but if I can help it, I won’t be late."

Ross’ work ethic has always been strong. He grew up on a farm near Buckhorn and learned the value of hard work. So, when he was drafted into the Army in 1941, he approached military life with the same commitment and dedication that he had displayed pushing a plow.

Ross has the distinction of being the first man drafted by local board #2 in Brundidge.

"Yes, I was the first one," he said, laughing. "Others had gone before me, but they were volunteers. I was the first one Uncle Sam pointed a finger at."

Ross served for five years with the Army’s 31st Division 167 Infantry and saw action in the South Pacific during World War II.

"You’ve heard the saying, ‘War is hell,’ well, it’s true," Ross said, "but I was proud to serve. It was my duty and it was an honor."

Now, it is Ross’ honor to be a member of the work force and it is a privilege for him to work with a company that honors senior citizens by acknowledging them as productive citizens who have a lot to give.

Ross is one happy worker and he often sings a happy turn as he works, a habit that was formed when he worked for Bob’s Feeds where he always whistled while he worked.

Someone would say, ‘Where’s Walter?’ and everyone would stop and listen and they could locate him by his whistling.

"My whistle’s about worn out now," Ross said, laughing, "but, I can still sing a little, at least, I like to try. I sing when I work because I’m happy to be working and I’m blessed to have a job and good people to work with. I thank Wal-Mart for giving me a chance to do what I love to do – work."