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101-year-old grocery store employee honored with a grant named in her honor

Planning retirement is something that many of us have given a serious thought, if given a chance, most people would want to retire from work as early as possible. But not Romay Davis. 

This 101-year-old woman hasn’t let her age stop her from working at a grocery store in Montgomery, Alabama. Romay is still working at Winn-Dixie five days a week, even during the coronavirus pandemic. And yes, she still drives herself to work!

During Black History Month, Romay is being honored for her contribution with a grant named after her.

The Romay Davis Belonging, Inclusion and Diversity Grant Program will help fund nonprofits to support their fight for racial equity and social justice. It will also address racial disparities in education, food insecurity, and health care.

Romay is pleased with the concept behind the grant and hopes it will make a difference in many people’s lives.

“I had several experiences, some of them were detrimental — painful — and I wondered why,” she said. “But I learned it was the other person, not me.”

Those who are close to Romay know that the grant named after her is fitting. This centenarian is an overachiever who lets nothing get in the way of her accomplishing her goals.

Born on October 29, 1919, in King George County, Virginia, Romay enlisted in the United States Army as soon as she was of age. She served as a member of the first all-Black Women Army Corps unit sent overseas during World War II.

After the war, she went to New York City to enroll in a fashion school and ended up working in the fashion industry for three decades.

“During the time when people didn’t like us because we were Black, I used to not want to be around [others]. I wanted to be by myself,” she told Good Morning America.

Throughout her remarkable life, she’s earned a master’s degree, sang in the choir in Martin Luther King’s church, thrived as an artist, and earned a second-degree Black Belt in Taekwondo in her 70s.

“I guess it’s medicine for me,” she said about why she’s still working at the grocery store and not planning retirement soon. “I love to be busy doing something. The only time I’m not busy, I’m sick or asleep. 

Sometimes, customers come to Winn-Dixie just to talk to her, as they’re usually enamored by her stories. When one of the store’s baggers had to write about their greatest inspiration, he wrote about the grandma.

Romay retired for the first time in 1982 to spend time with her husband Jerry and their family. In 2001, after Jerry succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease, 81-year-old Romay wanted to work again.

She didn’t like the state of the shelves at her neighborhood grocery store, so she spoke to the manager, who told her that she was welcome to do something about it.

So she did. Romay got hired at a Winn-Dixie to tidy up and stock the shelves. She’s been there for 20 years, outlasting most of her co-workers and even the original East Boulevard location where she originally worked.

When Romay celebrated her 100th birthday in 2019, her co-workers set up a big celebration for her, complete with a high school band, lots of cakes and visitors, and even a hashtag in her honor: #RomayDavisDay.

“It’s unreal. She’s doing more work than a 25-year-old,” Bobby Godwin, the store manager at the Winn-Dixie in Montgomery, said about Romay. “She enjoys coming to work. If she’s going to be a few minutes late, she’s calling. I say, ‘Romay, just take your time.'”

Romay is still an in-demand public speaker who drives and lives on her own. Her longtime friend, Stacia Robinson, helps her as much as Romay will let her.

While medical problems sometimes keep her from being her best every day, Romay said her mother taught her never to give up. And that’s exactly what she’s been doing all these years. Planning retirement is a smart thing to do, but for some people they love their work so much that retirement is not a priority on their list.

“Life is full,” she said. “There’s no reason to be any other way.” You are an inspiration, Romay! May you continue to live a long and healthful life.

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