By Juanita Floyd
While sitting in the W.E. Pegues Chapel celebrating the homegoing of Jeff Robertson, owner of Tom’s Automotive, I listened to Rev. Dan Rupert talk about their relationship. He talked about Jeff’s kindness, wit and love for people. He stated, “Jeff loved his family; loved kids; loved to be around people and have fun; and he loved helping people … I remember when I asked him how much he would charge for an oil change. Jeff’s reply, ‘Just depends.’ I asked again, how much for an oil change? ‘Just depends on what else is wrong with the car.’ He never did give me a set amount for that oil change.”
I thought about how my relationship with Jeff began. The “check engine” light came on in my ‘99 vehicle. I carried it to the dealership’s service department and was told that it would cost over $600 to repair the problem with the gas line.
My boss said to me, “Take it over to Tom’s and see what they would charge to fix it.” I immediately said, “Oh, no. I am told he has the highest prices in town.” After a few days, I decided to take my car to Tom’s. I explained to Jeff that something was wrong with the gas line. He asked, “What model is your car?” I replied, “99.” He said, “If I recall correctly, the 99’s had a problem with the gas cap. Let me check.” After placing the car on the machine, he said, “All it needs is a gas cap.” I paid him around $30 and became a customer for life.
I joked with him later, when he repaired other problems on my cars, by saying, “You are probably overcharging me.” He would laugh. From that first encounter, we became friends and talked about everything – education, economics, family, and people – you name it – we talked about it. I quickly learned that it was better to go in the evening after work rather than during the day – so we would have enough time to talk.
Another encounter with Jeff endeared him to me for life was when I took my oldest son’s car in for an oil change and minor repairs. I will never forget his words to me, “Juanita, your son’s car has major problems. It’s a death trap.” My situation had changed – I was now a single parent. Before I could finish my thoughts, he said, “I would not allow my own son to drive this car in the shape that it is in. Your son is my son. I have already fixed the car. Come pick it up.” With tears streaming, I picked up Tyler’s car and profusely thanked Jeff for his kindness.
I remember going over to the shop about a year ago. We talked about Jeff’s illness. I asked him if I could pray with him. He said, “Yes.” Right there in that shop, along with several of the employees, we held hands and prayed together.
This month we will celebrate Thanksgiving – a time of giving thanks. Take time to let the people in your life know how important they are to you. Develop meaningful relationships and friendships spanning racial, ethnic, or socio- economic lines.
I am so thankful for a business relationship that evolved into a true friendship with Jeff. Auburn Professor Kalu N. Kalu said, “The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.” When life is no more and your work is done here on earth – what have you done for others? Will you leave a legacy like Jeff Robertson? You be the judge.
JUANITA GAMBRELL FLOYD is vice president for Finance and Administration at CREATE Foundation. Contect her at firstname.lastname@example.org.