The Professional Greeter

by Arnold Nelson

     That is the way he was introduced to me. The professional greeter. He was too. I never saw any better. The kids loved him.. They were always running up to him to give him hugs and get their cookie stickers. Some of the kids would bring in things they made for him. The women were always hugging him. They would bring in food for him. He loved it.

    He loved to talk. He would talk to anyone who had the time to listen to him. He always had a big smile on his face no matter how much pain he was in. He was in a wheelchair after they took his legs. The kids liked that because it brought him down to their size. He liked people. That is the main thing to being a good greater you have to like people. He didn't always do everything the way management wanted. He said it was more important to keep the customer happy then the management. Keep the customer happy, keep them coming back. If you make the children happy they will want to come back and the parents will bring them back. He must have been doing something right, he was associate of the month one month last year. I don't think that honor was as important to him as the children that came to see him everyday.

     Robert Vail was born on January 9th 1924 in Pennsylvania. He worked 3 jobs to pay his way through Penn State. He went to ROTC. He played Soccer and Baseball too. I don't know when he had time to study but he did. He was going to be a Lieutenant in the Army.

     He didn't want that so he quit just before he graduated and joined the Navy-Air Force. He became a Navy fighter pilot. He met his wife Sue while training in Oklahoma. He was stationed on the U.S.S. Ticonderoga in the Pacific. After the Japanese surrendered Bob was sent home. After he got home he taught himself to drive and finally got his drivers license at the age of 21.

    He learned how to fly got 2 air medals and a distinguished flying cross before he got around to learning how to drive. This man was a war hero but you would not know it to talk to him. He didn't want to talk about his was experiences.

  One of the local TV stations came to Walmart to do a story on him once. He didn't like it but he was polite and answered their questions. He was a hero to all of us who knew him He went through life with that big smile on his face. No mattered how much pain he was in, the big smile was always there. He had a cat he loved. He was always buying food for that cat. I used to kid him about the cat eating better then he did. He just laughed. That man loved to laugh. He really enjoyed life. I only knew him about 5 months, but it was long enough to see how special this man was. I will never forget him. He was a very special man and I will miss him. He left us on February 29th 2012. I am sure he is in heaven now greeting people and handing out stickers to all the kids.

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