Sunday, March 3, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Another Mentor...

He opened the cash register and handed me a dollar bill…What’s this for, I asked? Well it is obvious you can’t afford a razor, so here is a dollar to go buy one.  I got the message…I was expected to show up for work clean shaven. I was an 18 year old freshman at Texas Tech University in the fall of 1980.  The man offering me the necessary funds to buy a razor was Bill Groux.

Bill owned and operated one of the last truly full service gas stations and auto repair shops that existed in Lubbock.  We had no self serve pumps…Bill expected us to wear clean Texaco uniforms. We pumped the gas, cleaned windshields, and checked the oil and the tire pressure for every single customer. In addition to fuel sales, we hand washed cars, changed oil, fixed flat tires, and did minor mechanical repairs. He also had a full time mechanic who did more complicated repair jobs.  Interestingly enough Bill was not a proficient mechanic.  He could hire people to do that job.  His talents laid elsewhere.

Mr. Groux (as we called him) possessed outstanding people skills. Customers would come in to purchase gas or pick up their vehicles after a repair job only to talk to Bill for extended periods of time.  He was an excellent listener.  There is no telling how many troubled souls were impacted by his ability to listen and empathize. He could relate to all kinds of people. He was excellent business manager.  And he understood the essence of customer service.  I ended up working for Bill until I graduated from college in 1984. I walked away a far more mature young man.

Bill modeled good people skills and I took equally good mental notes. He encouraged me to stay in college when I really wanted to quit.  His favorite phrase was: Get that knowledge!   I heard him say that over and over and over again. At one point, I was going to move in with a bunch of guys in a situation that would have torpedoed my educational endeavors.  He called me in his office one day and informed me I would not be making that move. And I didn’t…

In 1980, I was a fatherless 18 year old who did not have enough sense to show up at work clean shaven. He was far more than employer. He recognized my vulnerability. He took me in and took care of me. He taught me respect. I don't think he would have used the word mentor, but that is what he did. I will be forever indebted to him.

Mr. Groux passed from this life last Friday. Tomorrow I will make the trek to Lubbock to attend his funeral.  I knew this day was coming, but I am just not ready.  He was 84 years old.  That means he was 51 years old when he hired me in 1980.  I turn 51 this year…I wonder who God will bring in my life to mentor and love as Bill did for me.  

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