It’s hard to find someone in Yazoo City who didn’t know Mr. Charles Nelson.
Even if you don’t recognize his name, there’s a good chance that you’d recognize his face. At some point he probably directed you toward the aisle where that item you were looking for was located or even carried your groceries to your car.
Or maybe he just said hello with a smile as you passed by while he was making sure that items were perfectly displayed on the shelf or thanked you for your business as you headed out the door.
Mr. Nelson was a fixture in the Yazoo grocery business for many years at Bob Knott’s Grocery on Main Street, Sunflower, McDade’s and most recently at Kaye’s Food Market, where he clocked in one last time on Friday.
The fact that he was still working at age 85 is proof that he loved what he did, but you didn’t have to know his age to know that fact about him.
Mr. Nelson’s work spoke for itself.
He had a reputation as a hard worker who took pride in what he did. His attention to detail was well known by local shoppers.
And while it’s no surprise that Mr. Nelson developed many relationships with customers and coworkers over the years, I think he’d probably be surprised to realize how significant of an impact he made on many lives in our community.
As word spread of Mr. Nelson’s passing last week we heard many stories from Yazooans about what he meant to them.
Some were customers who considered seeing him while shopping to be a bright spot in their day.
Andi Ray remembered a time when she couldn’t find an item, and Mr. Nelson helped her search the entire store until they found what she was looking for.
“He was the sweetest man,” Ray said. “He always went above and beyond.”
“He took pride in everything, and it showed,” said Deedra Woods.
Many of those sharing memories were coworkers, and a lot of them were people whose early experiences in the working world were positively shaped by Mr. Nelson.
Many teenagers get their first jobs working part time in grocery stores. Those who got their start working with Mr. Nelson had the opportunity to learn from one of the best.
“I first started working for him when I was a teenager,” said Jan Melton. “He taught me the meaning of good work habits. After I left and went on to other jobs, I always thought of him.”
“He taught me all about customer service,” said Meredith Muizers, who worked for Nelson from 1988-90. “They don’t make men like him anymore. He was a really good man.”
Charles Nelson is going to be missed in our community. It won’t be quite the same not seeing him while shopping, but his influence will remain.
In fact I could almost feel him smiling down as I made a quick stop at Kaye’s Sunday evening to pick up a few items that my wife asked me to grab on my way home.
Everything fit in two light bags, but the young man who bagged them up tried to carry them to my car for me.
That’s a level of service that hard to find these days, but it’s the kind of service Charles Nelson offered our community for many years.
Thanks to his influence, it will live on long after he’s gone.