Maybe it’s not everyone’s first choice of how to spend a birthday, but Larry Roberts, who turned 80 June 16, spent his day greeting hundreds of what he might call his closest friends. You see, he had to – he works as a Walmart greeter at the store off Northside Drive.
Some folks call him the friendliest person in Statesboro. His seemingly non-stop salutations greet everyone who comes in the grocery side of Walmart during his shift. He doesn’t just welcome, though, he speaks to each shopper who exits the building, too, encouraging them to have a great evening or rest of the day.
“Welcome to Walmart. Greetings, little lady. Hey, young man. Welcome back, brother. Come on in, sir.”
And then there’s candy for the little ones, occasionally. Some expect it and walk right up with a hug and a smile in return.
“I’ve been in the grocery business almost all my life,” Roberts said.
Roberts’ grandfather owned a grocery store in Tabor City, North Carolina, and his dad was one of the farmers his grandfather catered to with his business.
Aside from two years of active duty in the Navy in 1955, with four years of reserve duty following, Roberts has worked for various grocery stores in the produce department, including Food Lion in Savannah and Walmart in Charleston.
Roberts moved to Statesboro from Charleston in 2006 to be closer to his granddaughters and began work in the produce department at the Statesboro Walmart. For a brief time in 2013, after shoulder surgery, he served as a greeter, but once healed, he returned to the produce department.
An injury in January to the other arm sent him back to greeting. With a bit of a smirk on his face, Roberts said, “I hurt my arm lifting too much for my age.”
He said he’s learned his lesson this time, though, and plans to stay with greeting.
“I enjoy meeting people – especially children. That’s my heart. I thank the good Lord that I can still be doing this.”
Roberts has no plans to retire, either, insisting that he loves what he does, but also admitting with a diagnosis of “the bad kind of rheumatoid arthritis,” he has to stay active.
An active greeter he is, too. Even with one arm in a sling, Roberts can be seen waving the other arm in greeting, un-sticking stuck grocery carts for a customer, cleaning leftover trash from carts to tuck into a nearby garbage can, carrying on conversations with store employees or customers whom he calls by name, marking off receipts when the buzzer accidentally sounds with a customer’s exit and handing out candy to little ones.
Several people seemed to know it was his birthday and stopped to wish him a great day. Two customers handed him a small cake they’d purchased while shopping for his special day.
Travis Chance brought his whole family to give “Mr. Larry,” as Chance’s kids call him, a birthday gift. Shannon Chance, wife of Travis Chance, and Laurabeth Bland, employed by Chance Financial Group, presented Roberts with a gift basket they called a “sunshine basket” because of Roberts’ cheery personality.
A number of local restaurants contributed gift cards for Roberts that were included in the basket of goodies.
Travis Chance, dad of Maeson, 3, Marett, 2, and Maddox, 8 months, said his family got to know Roberts months ago when he extended such kindness to them as Walmart shoppers.
“He’s just so welcoming and our kids really liked him. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed having him as a friend. Mr. Larry is an example we all need to live by. He gives love like we all should. A great example of how to care about people.”