July 28, 2014

Elyria
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Oberlin man possibly ‘Readie’ to retire from Wellington car dealership

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Readie Brooks has been working at what is now Brother’s Chevrolet in Wellington since 1971. The 93-year-old Oberlin man has retired before and he thinks this one might stick. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

WELLINGTON — Chewing on a toothpick, 93-year-old Readie Brooks contemplated whether this retirement would be his last.

Brooks retired a couple times from Brother’s Chevrolet in Wellington. He even had a retirement party, complete with a gift of golf clubs, when he turned 65.

But Brooks kept coming back to Brother’s Chevrolet, where he has been detailing cars for decades.

Lad Harrison, president and owner of the company, said Brooks has worked for the family since 1971, previously working at the Harrison Ford car dealership that Harrison’s father owned. Harrison spoke to Brooks in the storeroom of Brother’s Chevrolet on Friday, asking Brooks what his plans were for his “final” retirement.

“If you get tired of retirement, there’s always a spot for you,” he told Brooks.

Brooks smiled and, chewing on that toothpick, furrowed his brow.

“Well, maybe I’ll work a day or two days a week,” he said. “Or one or two hours a week.”

Brooks, who is in remarkably good health for his age, has only missed about three weeks of work in his 42 years on the job, according to Harrison. He’s outlived his wife, who passed away about 10 years ago, and he estimates that he has about 40 or 50 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The thought of retiring just never felt right to Brooks, until now.

“I retired about three times. I didn’t have anything to do, so I just came back,” Brooks said, shrugging.

The son of a sharecropper in Mississippi, Brooks worked on a farm during his younger years before he was drafted into the Army. He served in the Philippines during World War II, returning to Mississippi and farm work.

Brooks said he decided he needed a change of scenery, and in 1955, he moved to Oberlin. He considered settling in Elyria, but the city was “too big” for a man who had grown up in the country.

“I got to Oberlin, and I said, ‘I like it here.’ You can stand on one end of the city and shake hands with someone on the other side,” he said, laughing.

Brooks worked as a mechanic at dealerships in Elyria before landing a job at Harrison Ford. He stayed with the family business when Harrison Truck and Implements became Brother’s Chevrolet in 1989.

Harrison said he considers Brooks a personal friend after working with him for so many years.

“He’s very reliable, very dependable,” he said. “He’s just a gentlemen’s gentleman.”

Harrison said there may be a link between a long, healthy life and keeping busy. He said Brooks probably wouldn’t have retired if it had not been at the urging of his children.

“Having a reason to get up in the morning and a destination is very important,” Harrison said.

Brooks is still considering what he will do when he retires. He said he may play golf a little or spend time with family.

“I don’t have any plans whatsoever,” he said. “Just whatever happens, happens.”

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaMillerCT.