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WINFIELD — Wearing his blue work shirt and black suspenders, Cliff Jenkins smiles and greets customers as they get their coffee and a gas fill-up at Speedway.

Kelly Rettig, lead customer service representative at the store, describes the 84-year-old as her right-hand man.

"He has been here for almost six years, and if he's not here, the customers are asking where he is," Rettig said. "He just told me this morning that he loves coming here every day."

Jenkins works from 6 to 8:30 a.m. five days a week, making coffee, sweeping, mopping and just doing whatever he can to keep busy.

"He makes a lot of coffee, and it's hard to keep up with him," said Gerri Kubal, manager at the Speedway, 10880 Randolph St. "He excels at everything he does and has had an interesting life."

Kubal said Jenkins greets all of the customers and "will even whistle while he's making coffee."

"He is always a step ahead of what he needs to do. He's just wonderful," Kubal said.

Jenkins, who lives in Winfield, never misses a day on the job. He even came in during the recent polar vortex.

"This job gets me out of bed in the morning and gives me something to do," Jenkins said. "I love working here. It's a friendly atmosphere, and they treat me very well. It's a good place to come to."

Jenkins said he can't stay home and sit around and do nothing. When he's not working at Speedway, he can be found volunteering at St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart.

"I help out at the reception desk and have been there for over five years," he said. "I also am busy with my church, St. Peter and Paul, and am on their choir."

The 84-year-old still drives and loves to read.

"In the summer I take care of my flower garden and just keep busy," he said. "My faith is a very important part of my life."

Jenkins is a widower and has six children, 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

"I have a strong work ethic, and I'm proud to say so do my children and their children," he said. "They are all hardworking."

Jenkins worked at U.S. Steel for 32 years before they "retired him," as he puts it. Before that, he was in the Navy and is a Korean War veteran.

Jenkins recently was named employee of the quarter for Speedway.

"I'm humbled by this," Jenkins said. "You must be pleasant to people. That is important."

How long will Jenkins continue working?

"I don't want to retire," he said. "I will continue working here and volunteering at the hospital as long as my body will let me and as long as I can continue to function.

"The word 'retire' is not in my vocabulary," he said, with a chuckle. "I love coming to work. When I worked at the mill, I was excited to go to work."

Michelle Pinkerton, store manager for the Subway inside the Speedway, loves seeing him every morning.

"You brighten my day," she said to Jenkins as she hugged him. "We help each other out."

Jenkins added, "I am very blessed with the people who surround my life." 

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Community Coordinator

Annette is Community Coordinator for The Times. She has been with the paper for two decades. A resident of Hobart, she graduated from Purdue University with degrees in English and German.