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Gainesville man retires on 80th birthday after 55 years at same company

POSTED: March 12, 2017 12:00 p.m.
Erin O. Smith/The Times/

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After 55 years at the same workplace, Robert Stringer says, with a smile, that he expects to “rust out” in his retirement years.

“You go along a road and see these old trucks and tractors pulled out into the field,” he said in an interview last week at his Gainesville home. “They were probably running when they were put out there. After a few years, they don’t run.

“That’s probably what I’ll do. I’ll probably sit around here and rust out.”

Then, with a hearty laugh, Stringer added, “I’ll finally get where I can’t move.”

Whatever he ends up doing won’t involve another busy workday at Oakwood-based Clipper Petroleum. He wrapped up his career as a service technician and construction worker on Feb. 22, his 80th birthday.

“Two or three years ago, I thought about retiring, but I just kept on,” Stringer said.

Approaching 80, the time just seemed right to call it quits

“I just got tired,” said Stringer, a Fulton County native who has spent most of his life in Gainesville, some 40 years at the same house.

“I was just going to (retire) this time,” he said.

Clipper wasn’t the only job in his work life.

“I quit my construction job on a Monday morning,” said Stringer, looking back on how he joined Clipper. “This person who lived across the street from us said, ‘Do you want to go with me (to work) in the morning?’”

“I told him, ‘Yeah, I’ll go with you.’”

That started the long relationship between Stringer and Clipper, which started as an Amoco Oil Distributor in Gainesville in 1933.

Through the years, he helped maintain gas pumps and tanks at Clipper stores.

Today, the company operates 27 convenience stores in Georgia and South Carolina and distributes fuel to independent dealers in Georgia and South Carolina.

“I went all over most of those places,” Stringer said.

Stringer said he never considered taking another job, and so, the years went by.

“It was one day at a time,” he said. “I enjoyed it.”

His health was mostly good during the time, except for a couple of painful episodes, including hurting his back.

And there was the time “I cut part of my finger off,” Stringer said.

He got it caught between two 55-gallon oil drums.

“I took off about a week with this,” Stringer said, showing the injured finger. “I went back (to work) and piddled around — I couldn’t do anything but just be there.”

Also, through the years, he raised a family. Married at 27, he and his wife had two sons and one daughter, now ages 43 to 50. His wife, Lillie, died in 2010.

Stringer also has six grandchildren.

“They’re all about within 15 miles,” he said.

Stringer has a couple of plaques marking job anniversaries. They’re on the family room wall and a table mixed in with a bunch of family photographs.

He said he didn’t get anything special on his retirement/birthday party, other than cards and such, but a luncheon is in the works to honor him.

Not going to work the day after that celebration didn’t feel particularly strange, he said. It was like starting a two-week vacation.

“It’ll probably be another couple weeks before I really start getting bored,” Stringer said.

His daughter, Betsy Ross, said she is “so proud and thankful that my dad was able to retire when he felt the time was right for him.”

“All I want for him now is to be able to rest, relax and enjoy his retirement,” she added.

“What a tribute and an honor to say my dad worked until his 80th birthday and, on top of that, 55 years with the same company,” Ross said. “He is a true inspiration to me and my brothers. Job well done, Dad.”

 

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