Coleman honored as Crew Person of the Year

76-year-old on the idea of retirement: “I take one day at a time”

By Kevin Spradlin
PiedmontPostNC.com

GREENSBORO – The average person does not begin a new career in their 60s. Then again, Hilda Coleman is no ordinary person.

Coleman, 76, was named McDonald’s Crew Person of the Year for the Triad Co-Op for calendar year 2017 for the way she greets customers patronizing the Albert Pick Road store in Greensboro. She began her new career in the fast-food industry more than a decade ago. The award helped her reminisce of those early days beginning in 2007.

“I had never worked in a fast-food restaurant,” Coleman said. “My first day, the manager said, ‘we want you on French fries because we can’t keep anybody on French fries because it’s too hot.’ Well, I was born in 1941. I’ve been through a lot of heat.”

Kevin Spradlin | PiedmontPostNC.com Hilda Coleman was named McDonald’s Crew Person of the Year for the Triad Co-Op for calendar year 2017. Coleman, 76, a native of Colfax who lives in Stokesdale, works at the Albert Pick Road store located off N.C. 68 in Greensboro. She is pictured by a vase of yellow and red flowers Coleman is responsible for maintaining each morning. The colors have personal meaning for Coleman.

Kevin Spradlin | PiedmontPostNC.com
Hilda Coleman was named McDonald’s Crew Person of the Year for the Triad Co-Op for calendar year 2017. Coleman, 76, a native of Colfax who lives in Stokesdale, works at the Albert Pick Road store located off N.C. 68 in Greensboro. She is pictured by a vase of yellow and red flowers Coleman is responsible for maintaining each morning. The colors have personal meaning for Coleman.

It was nothing for Coleman, born in 1941 to Mary Lou Noah Atkins and Willie Dale Atkins, and her nine brothers and sisters to work under a sweltering sun while helping their parents managed a farm that offered tobacco, corn, what, watermelons, tomatoes and cantaloupes.

Even on the hottest days as a child, “we still had our work to do,” Coleman recalled.

In other words, working by the fryers inside an air-conditioned building was hardly a challenge.

She accepted the challenge of learning new skills just as she welcomed increases in responsibility while a long-time employee at Gilbarco Inc. She was awarded a plaque in 1995 for “outstanding achievement on the job.”

Once she retired in January 2005 from Gilbarco, however, Coleman never planned on going back to work. But life had something else in mind. Her husband, who was also retired, suffered a fatal heart attack on April 29, 2005.

“I was only retired three months with him,” Coleman said. “Also, I had a son that was sick with an incurable disease.”

With the family still depending on her, she filled out an application at the newly opened store in Oak Ridge.

“I approached them with a good attitude,” Coleman said of a female employee. “I said, ‘do you all need some good help?’ She told me to come back at 2 o’clock and she would talk to me. I was hired immediately.”

When she began, there was an adjustment – but mostly on the part of her co-workers.

“My very first job as standing up on the stool, handing tobacco from a sled,” Coleman said of life on the farm. “Everything I went at, I went at a high speed. The only thing they ever told me in the kitchen (at McDonald’s) was that I needed to slow down (but) I have a certain work pace.”

Working with mostly younger colleagues, Coleman said she has become known as “the grandma on the block.”

Part of Coleman’s job now is to take care of the lobby area. That includes greeting customers as they enter and selecting and placing flowers on each table. She chose yellow and red flowers – one of each color, in a white vase, at each table – but not because they match the company’s corporate colors.

Yellow, she said, is to support members of the U.S. military. Hubert Atkins, one of her five brothers, served with the Army during the Korean War in the 1950s.

Red, meanwhile, is “for the celebration of life.”

“I’ve lost my mother,” Coleman recounted through tears beginning to well up in her eyes. “I’ve lost my father. I’ve lost my husband. I’ve lost my son. And I’ve lost a younger brother. God took my husband after 45 years of marriage. I feel like He’s not quite through with me yet. So that’s why I celebrate life each day.”

When she’s not working her 6:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. shift at McDonald’s, Coleman said she remains active by mowing her lawn, weed-eating and painting. She also helps her son split wood and attends church each Sunday.

In the meantime, Coleman said she has no plans to change her routine.

“I take one day at a time,” Coleman said. “If they come up and say, ‘we think you need to retire, you’re gettin’ too old,’ then I’ll retire.”

Editor’s note: This article and accompanying photos were originally published in the April 12 edition of the Northwest Observer. It is being published here, with the author’s permission, in order to give appropriate professional credit to the author and photographer.

Filed in: Business, Colfax, Farm & Ag, Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Regional News

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