Making a quick stop at Wal-Mart in Russellville most times can turn into a much longer and more expensive trip then we first imagined. For most of us, finding a parking spot close to the store can sometimes be a challenge, weaving ourselves up and down the maze like a mouse chasing cheese until one opens up. We fumble with our purses, grab our phones, and search for that umbrella, if need be, before heading to the sliding glass doors saying hello to at least one or two of our neighbors before entering.
What awaits us inside, just before hitting the masses who are doing the exact same practice as we are, is what I like to call the buffer zone. Buffer is defined as a neutral area serving to separate hostile forces or nations. A space where peace and tranquility reside. A calm before the storm per say. Within this space in our small little town stands the Wal-Mart Greeter. Russellville is blessed to have several of these wonderful people who make our trips to the mega superstore a little more enjoyable. A friendly wave or nod starts our adventure into the abyss with a smile on our faces, and puts one back on when we leave.
One greeter, however, seems to be standing out and has become somewhat of a local icon known by most as, “You know… that older guy at the door at Wal-Mart that is so nice?” Herman Robbins is the guy who doesn’t just gesture when you walk into Wal-Mart on the grocery side. He’s the one that takes the time to chat with you and ask you how you are. The amazing thing about Herman is he really does care about how you are, and most who pass by him can see his inquiry is as genuine as he is himself. For this, and the many lives Herman the Wal-Mart Greeter touches, the News-Democrat & Leader has selected him as our 2016 Citizen of the Year.
Herman Robbins is 89-years-old. Yes, that’s right, 89-years. When most people are easing back in their recliners at his age Herman can’t seem to sit still. Perhaps it’s the over 30 years in the trucking business, where he was glued to a bucket seat traveling throughout the United States that keeps him vertical at this juncture of his life. Or maybe it’s the hard work as a farmer in his younger years that keeps him going out of habit. Or maybe it’s just the fact that he likes people and the interaction with them that drags him out in all kinds of weather, three days a week, to help make our shopping experience a better one. I guess it may be all of the above.
“I have worked with Herman for years,” said Wal-Mart CSM Shannon Grise. “He is a super sweet and friendly man. He talks to everyone no matter who you are. That’s what I like about him. He excels in all he does here and we are grateful to have him.”
After graduating high school in 1946, just missing out on WWII, Herman began attending Bowling Green Business University at the request of his uncle. “I’m guessing he wanted me to learn more than just farming,” said Herman.
After six months, Herman became a student at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn., but admits he only stayed long enough to realize he wasn’t cut out for college. The only good thing to come out of that experience was a homecoming game he attended where he was matched up with his wife of 58 years, Ruthel Tatum Robbins.
“That’s when I got in trouble,” chuckled Herman, about meeting the love of his life. The two married on Christmas Eve Dec. 24, 1958. “I like to say we both got a big Christmas present,” said Ruthel.
Ruthel was a self-made woman who owned her own beauty shop at a young age. It was a mutual friend that brought them together, but God who blessed them from then on.
“He was so handsome when I met him,” said Ruthel, with a smile still on her face when taking about Herman almost six decades later, knowing she still thinks so.
Like most couples the Robbins settled into their life. They bought a place in Lewisburg, where they still live. They raised two wonderful children, Tommy and Sherry Robbins Grise. Both retired, and before long found themselves spoiling four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. The Robbins built a life full of memories to look back on and according to Ruthel, it can all be attributed to God.
“We are very blessed,” said Herman and his wife. “We have had a great life, and we are looking forward to what is to come.”
Asked why he can’t seem to take it easy in his older years, Herman has a short and powerful answer. “Hard work never hurt anyone.” He said he knew he didn’t need to just sit down and do nothing. He added he didn’t believe he would still be here if he had of. “I’m not a lazy man and I’m not afraid to work,” said Herman.
There hasn’t been one day in the last 11 years while working for Wal-Mart that Herman has regretted. Meeting people and talking with them has become one of the highlights of his long life.
“I like people,” said Herman. “I’ve met a lot of them and I’ve made a lot of friends. I love what I do and I’m happy to be able to do it.”
Josh Duncan, Store Manager for the Russellville Wal-Mart, said Herman sets the mood for those coming through the doors. “He has conversations and puts everyone at ease. He is a great human being and a great Christian man,” said Duncan.
To contact Chris Cooper, email [email protected] or cqall 270-726-8394.