Teaching life’s lessons while on the job
by Chris Collett
Columnist
July 19, 2013 10:10 PM | 1346 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Chris Collett<br>Columnist
Chris Collett
Columnist
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As I sit here and write this, it’s hard not to think back on some of the people I have written about. There have been some who are well known in the community. There have been some that maybe only a few know.

But the point I am trying to make is that Cherokee County has a lot of good people in it whether they are well known or not.

There are some no doubt who will participate in various things in order to feel their importance. I call them joiners. Then there are others that just go through life living with high standards and morals while living below the radar.

I had the privilege to work with J.B. Johnston for 10 years at Woodstock Gas Co. Before working at the gas company, J.B. spent many years with Canton Textile Mills. Like many others, he had to find work when the glory days of denim faded away in our community.

The cotton mill drove the economy in our town. Granny and Granddaddy Collett retired from there. Even though I was relatively young when it closed, there was an awkward feeling of uncertainty felt by many with its demise.

J.B. was certainly one of those that felt the sting of the closing of the mill. But hardworking people that don’t mind getting their hands dirty many times land on their feet. J.B. landed solidly on his feet at Woodstock Gas.

J.B. was the officer manager and in charge of keeping the books. He could make an adding machine hum with his left hand faster than anyone I have ever seen.

We didn’t have computers. We had adding machines and ledgers. And J.B. was certainly gifted with both.

I was young then and feel sure that J.B. sometimes got tired of my antics in the office. But if he did, he never said anything. He just did his job.

But he took time with me to try and teach me how to do his job. Some of it took and some of it didn’t. But one lesson that I learned from J.B. was the importance of getting it right.

I have seen the man pull his hair over a 1 cent mistake. I have seen him leave the office and go for a walk to clear his head before coming back and finding that penny. He didn’t have the mindset of so many today that it’s only a penny. J.B. had been hired to do a job and he wouldn’t stop working until it was right.

More importantly, J.B. always, and I mean always, took the time to talk to me about life. There could have been times he might have thought it was for naught, but it wasn’t. The man was a mentor of ethics and morals. And although I have failed to live to the caliber he has, I have never forgotten those lessons.

We talked religion, politics, family and any other topic you can imagine. We were working together on Jan. 28, 1986, when the space shuttle Challenger exploded. We talked about it.

And although J.B. had many interest, I never knew him as a joiner. He was and is a man that simply lives his life without wanting people to think of him as something. You see, he doesn’t need a pat on the back for his good deeds like so many do today. Why? Because the life he leads in front of others is enough.

I have never heard one ounce of gossip about J.B. Johnston or his wife Kate. I have never heard one ounce of gossip about their two children, Angie and Barry. This is a family that lives their lives quietly and without the sad need to see their name in lights.

In spite of his anonymity, J.B. Johnston made a difference in who I am today. Not the bad parts, but many of my professional traits.

After he retired, J.B. got cancer. I didn’t know it for a long time. Because he just isn’t a man that will call everyone and let them know. But the last time I spoke to him he was doing well. He was happy.

But most of all, I remember J.B. as a man that tended to believe a man ought to mind his own business.

J.B., it took me a while to get that one. But I have it now. And it was of the greatest lessons you ever taught me.



Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.
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