By Adam Calder
When you’ve worked for the cooperative as long as I have, you can’t help but form relationships with the people you work with day in and day out. One of these people I have had the distinct pleasure of working with is an exceptionally skilled semi-truck driver named Steve Gentry.
Steve has been our regular driver for our main produce supplier, Albert’s Fresh Produce (now UNFI Produce) the entire time I have managed the produce department. Three times a week, for over 600 weeks, he has been a stalwart fixture here. There is not a wind that blows fierce enough, nor a rain that pelts hard enough, or snow that drifts deep enough to keep him from making his deliveries. He’s been delivering to us since the days of the old store on Douglas Avenue when he used to help us wheel in the produce, one cartload at a time, through the front door.
Even if you’ve never seen someone drive a truck, you can tell Steve is a master at his job. I’ve watched him get his truck and trailer out of some icy, steep, jack-knifed conditions that would have made lesser drivers fall to pieces.
Steve is not only an excellent driver, he is also exceptional in his customer service. Even though he doesn’t have to, he calls the store to tell me when I can expect his delivery. He helps us break down pallets and delivers products to other departments so I can focus on receiving produce. His demeanor is pleasant, affable and helpful. He genuinely wants his customers to be happy, not because it is his job, but because he likes making people happy. Everyone who works here at Wheatsfield has nothing but positive things to say about their interactions with Steve.
I’ve worked with Steve so long, our relationship has grown beyond that of delivery driver and customer to one of mutual respect and friendship. After my pet cat died and I was looking to adopt a new one, he gave me a cute calico kitten from a litter his cat had. He has been there for me at every harrowing, trying, stressful moment of chaos in my personal or professional life for over a decade. His kind words, empathic ears and warm hugs were always there just when needed most. Occasionally, life has dealt me repeated blows that have left me in a crumbled pile. When that has happened, I can count on one hand the number of people who have been there to pick me up off the floor and hold me while I sobbed. I am truly lucky to be able to count Steve as one of that handful.
Over the years, I’ve watched him struggle to figure out who he is and who he wants to be. Life has hurled many challenges and disasters at Steve, and he has risen above those challenges to emerge stronger on the other side. He has figured out who he is: a humble, kind, hardworking man of integrity, conviction and loyalty.
I know he doesn’t need it, because he will be great no matter what he does, and yet I still want to wish him the best of luck as he takes on a new job. I’ll miss seeing Steve’s smiling face every week. I will also take comfort in knowing he has moved on to the next chapter of his life. Whatever adventures are in store for him there, I know he will tackle them head-on. You made an impression on my heart that won’t soon be forgotten. Thank you, and good luck Steve!