BONAIRE, Ga. — For nearly a decade, Raymond Nelson has brightened the days of coworkers and customers at the Kroger on Highway 96 in Bonaire.
Monday, those same friends came together to surprise Nelson, also known as Mr. Paul, as he prepares to retire.
People shared some of their favorite memories of shopping and working with Nelson over the years.
"We couldn't send him out without having something for him," says supervisor Lilly Wilson. "He's very loving and caring. We're going to miss him. We're going to really miss him."
Wilson says that in addition to giving out hugs, Nelson often paid out of his own pocket to help customers who couldn't afford their groceries.
For customer Tammie Belcher, Nelson has made an impact on not only here but her children.
"My son was getting into trouble when he was a teenager and Paul was getting on to him," says Belcher. "He saved my son's life is the way I look at it. He's my guardian angel."
At the surprise party, Belcher along with other patrons agreed that they always look for Nelson when they come to shop.
"It means everything. Every time I come in, I look for Paul," says Belcher. "He's always got an encouraging word."
For Nelson, it was overwhelming seeing all the love that his friends and family have for him.
"With all this love that's been shown to me, I almost can't accept it," says Nelson. "I'm trying not to cry because of the fact that I just didn't realize how many lives I had actually touched."
Nelson's love for people is what has made working at Kroger so enjoyable.
"It makes me feel good about myself because the things that I say and do, now I know that it does matter," says Nelson.
In retirement, Nelson says he is excited to spend more time with his family, work on projects at home, and travel once the pandemic passes.
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