Thursday, July 25, 2013
On his 101st birthday, Loren Wade didn't take the day off from his sales associate job at the Winfield Walmart. He clocked in at 9 a.m., ready as ever for his shift.
"It's just another day," Loren said. "I've worked all my life. That's all I know."
Loren says he enjoys working. He says it keeps him active and he says it beats sitting at home doing nothing.
As hard-working as the World War II veteran is, he's equally humble about his achievements and his coworkers' desire to recognize them.
"I don't know whether I deserve it," Loren said. "There's other people in this store that should be recognized, too."
While that's no doubt true, Thursday at Walmart was all about celebrating how much Loren means to the store and the community.
Wade has worked for Walmart for more than 20 years. Walmart can't confirm it, but says it's likely he is the oldest person working at its stores worldwide. He's already recognized as being the oldest working Kansan.
Virtually everybody in town knows Loren. Before working at Walmart, he worked for years as a mail carrier.
Still, he was surprised by the outpouring of birthday wishes.
"I can't believe how many people have come up and wished me a happy birthday," Wade said. "I even got a call from the Walmart in Dallas."
Loren had asked his coworkers in Winfield not to plan a big celebration like they had for his 100th birthday.
"I told Tonya, my boss, 'Don't you do anything this year!'" Wade said.
But store manager, Tonya Villar, found a loophole.
"I said, 'I won't do it!'" Villar said.
That left the door open for other coworkers to take the lead.
They all came together in the garden center shortly after 9 a.m. They honored his wishes with a low-key ceremony but still had several surprises to wish him a happy birthday in style.
They presented him with a book of pictures that were taken at his 100th birthday party and at recognition events that followed in Washington D.C. and Bentonville, Ark.
"It was great," Loren said. "I've got to get home and look at it more."
He also received a card that had been signed by many of the executives from Walmart's home office.
One of the biggest surprises, a video Loren's coworkers had helped put together.
"The associates being a part of that meant so much to Loren and to all of us to be there with him and celebrate," Villar said.
Finally, everyone walked outside to release 101 balloons. In each balloon was a little note for whoever happens to find it.
"We put together a little card that says if you find this balloon please send a card to the store's address," Villar said. "We're excited to see if we get anything back!"
And, of course, there was punch and cake to top it all off.
But within the hour, Loren was already back at work although still reflecting on the day's celebration.
"I can't hardly believe it," Loren said. "It was fabulous."