When he graduated high school, David Jones wanted three things in life: to marry Mel Crabtree, to be a meat-cutter at Uhl’s, and to live in the country.
After a 42-year career, Jones retired around the turn of the year, spending his last day in Greenfield with his coworkers. Over the weekend he moved to North Carolina to start a new adventure.
On Aug. 16, 1977, Jones began working as a carryout boy for Tom Uhl. Jones said Uhl told him, “You take care of our customers, and they’ll take care of us,” and Jones’s grandfather, Arthur Shelton, and stepfather, Vernon Stanley, instilled in him the idea that you do a job right or you don’t do it.
When he was a junior in high school, Jones said he was asked if he wanted to learn how to cut meat. He said, “Sure.”
“Dick Easter, John Bob Wise and Phil Irvine taught me how to cut meat,” Jones said. “Back then, I was just the wrapper and clean-up guy, and they started showing me how to do this and that. Those guys influenced me to do what I do today. I’m very, very thankful for those guys.”
Over the last four decades, Jones has worked for Tom Uhl, Fulmer’s in both Greenfield and Washington Court House, and Community Markets, where he was the meat department manager until last week. While at Community Market, Jones earned the nickname “the Mayor” because he greeted everyone by name.
“The day John left was kind of like the last two weeks — I hated to see him go. He looked at me one day when he was back there and I was kind of upset, and he said, ‘Dave, it’s time for you. You care about this place more than I do. You’ve always cared about this place,’” Jones said. “He said, ‘You’ll be good.’ And I have. I’ve been great, and I’ve had some great workers who have helped me along the way.”
Jones said Cody Vangundy, who will replace him as manager of the meat department, started working at Community Market when he was 15.
“I trained him, and he went on to be the meat manager in Chillicothe, and now he’s coming back,” Jones said. “He’ll take care of everybody the same way I did.”
Jones said he and his wife, Mel, have been thinking about moving to North Carolina since the ’80s.
“We’ve been going down to Holden Beach since probably about 1980, then we had my son, and we skipped and went to the Ross County Fair. We started going again. We always talked about what it would be like to live down there,” Jones said. “Two years ago, we kind of said, ‘Let’s do this.’ The house that we just purchased was the first house we looked at two years ago. We would go down, and Mel would sit on the beach and say, ‘Just think: one of these days, we could come here whenever we want.’ I’m not retiring; I can’t retire. I worked for Tom for 20 years and didn’t have any retirement, which I don’t regret because Tom was a great man to work for. Now, the only difference is instead of working here, living here and saving money to go on vacation, we’re going there to work and live there and be on vacation.”
Jones said his wife, who worked as a pharmacy technician, is looking for something new in North Carolina, but he isn’t. When Jones’ ex-sister-in-law told him about a job opening, he called Hill’s Supermarket in Shallotte, North Carolina to acquire about the position, he was hired on the spot.
“Getting ready to start a job after 42 years,” Jones said. “I’m kind of nervous. At my age, I don’t really want new adventures, but I’m going to take one.”
Looking back on his career, Jones said, “I don’t consider myself anybody special — I did my job. I did what Tom Uhl told me to do: take care of customers,” Jones said. “I’ve gotten tremendous response. Everybody tells me I’m going to be missed. What I’ll miss is my customers, the town, the community. I’ll miss my job. I’m fortunate enough to do something that I love, and I’m going to continue. I didn’t look at it as a job. I’m blessed that so many people would trust me to do orders, to make their dinner plans, their cookout plans for them. I appreciate that everyone says I’ll be missed, but I will truly miss this town, this community, and my customers. They meant so much.”
Jones purchased a house in North Carolina on Dec. 9. He started his new job in Hill’s meat department on Monday.
Information for this story was provided by Mark Branham.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.