“I hear tell they’ve been to the moon, but I still don’t believe it. It’s too high!”
So began a story published in the Mobile Press Newspaper, quoting then 104-year-old William Lee, in April of 1970. As noted in the article about the centenarian’s life, Mr. Lee’s father had lived to be 109 years old. Few could have imagined at the time that William Lee would go on to surpass the remarkable longevity of his father, living to be 110 years old.
One of Mr. Lee’s twelve children, Mr. Alfred Lee, celebrated his 90th Birthday on July 22nd, 2015. ‘Mr. Alfred’, as he’s affectionately known by his work family, marked the milestone occasion by doing what he loves to do: coming to work at Riley-Stuart Supply Company.
He’s been doing just that for the past 66 years, and the way he figures, “it wouldn’t make good sense to stop now”.
Mr. Alfred began working at Riley-Stuart in 1949, just in time to assist in moving the company from the original Water Street location, to its new home on Virginia Street. (Later, in 1965, Riley-Stuart would move to its current location on Western Drive.) To hear him tell it, he did more than just assist in the move- “It was me and one other guy, and that fella’ I tell you, he wouldn’t hit a lick”. Mr. Alfred has served the company in a variety of roles over the years, and thoroughly enjoys sharing memories of his long and storied career. He tells of unloading rail cars of brick by hand, a process that might take a “good several days”; and of loading those same brick onto delivery trucks, by hand of course. When asked how they unloaded the truck at jobsites, he appears understandably puzzled by the question, before answering with a hearty laugh that belies his years, “well, we didn’t have much choice other than do that by hand too”.
Perhaps it was these very “by-hand” experiences that led to Mr. Alfred’s eventual love of the forklift. But as most anyone who has spent any time at Riley-Stuart in the last half-century or so can tell you, Mr. Alfred loves his forklift. Whether working, eating lunch, taking a break, or engaged in conversation- Mr. Alfred conducts most all of his daily activities from the perfectly-worn seat of his lift. And from his beloved perch, he has inspired countless colleagues and customers with his tireless work ethic, infectious laugh and sapient advice. That he continues to do so to this day, at 90 years young, is remarkable by any measure.
But he’s not done just yet- Asked recently if retirement ever crosses his mind, Mr. Alfred shares, “No sir, maybe in a few years. Maybe then, but got no good reason to now.”