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A clean sweep: John Alford one of the family at Goodman Millwork

SALISBURY – Because of John Alford, Goodman Millwork buys brooms from the Lions Club by the case. Really.

Many times, Alford has walked up to the office looking for a new broom because the one he’s holding has been worn down to the nubs.

“He’s just one of those guys who wears out a broom a week,” owner Franco Goodman said of Alford, who is celebrating his 80th birthday today.

With a broom and a big shovel that serves as his dust pan, Alford keeps the concrete floor under the woodworking shop’s main production equipment clean, which is crucial  in an operation where tiny sparks and sawdust can combine for devastation.

Goodman said the company’s insurance carriers are regularly impressed with the cleanliness of Goodman Millwork’s operation.

Alford also devotes a portion of his Wednesdays to vacuuming and cleaning up the offices.

Goodman admires Alford’s work ethic, which has remained constant over 50-plus years. Though his three workdays a week don’t start until 8 a.m., Alford usually arrives at 6:45 a.m. so he can clean around the company’s biggest machine before it’s put into action for the day.

Alford already was on the payroll cleaning and stacking lumber when Goodman first started working at the shop as a high school teenager back in the 1960s. Alford would later babysit Franco and Brenda Goodman’s boys, Ben and Nick, who now work here, too, or help with yard work and other chores outside the plant.

Franco Goodman eventually was appointed Alford’s legal guardian, and the Goodmans make sure his medical needs are taken care of and that he has plenty of clothes and food. Alford lives with a kind woman off Old Concord Road, and office manager Carla Anderson said he walks everywhere.

“He’s always out and about,” she said.

Alford walks to work in the morning, and someone from the plant usually will drive him home in the evenings.

Goodman said Alford is easy-going, kind-hearted, dependable and part of the Goodman Millwork family.

“Everybody has a John story,” Goodman said. “He has made a difference in our lives.”

Wednesday, the Goodman Millwork employees enjoyed a cookout-styled buffet featuring hot dogs, hamburgers and ice cream cake in honor of Alford’s birthday. All week, Alford had been acting a bit sheepish and even a little superstitious about his 80th birthday, Anderson said.

“I didn’t hit 80 yet,” he protested Wednesday.

But before anyone went through the chow line, Goodman gathered his employees around to pay tribute to Alford and recognize his long service and contributions to the company.

“We’re proud of you, No. 1,” Goodman told Alford. “We love you like a son, and it’s a good place to work because John’s here.”

Though the exact hiring date for Alford is not known, Goodman said he has to be the longest-tenured Goodman Millwork employee since Franco’s late uncle, Lloyd Goodman. who also had kept working into his 80s.

Alford is a big Carolina Panthers fan. He was wearing his Panthers wristwatch Wednesday and a shirt with a Panthers insignia. The guys ast Goodman Millwork also know how much Alford loves lottery tickets, so they passed the hat among themselves and bought him a stack of scratch-off cards to go through.

Alford did so right after lunch.

In his younger days, Goodman recalled, Alford was “kind of rowdy” and “could run with the best of them.”

Today, he’s just one of the best, walking or running.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mark.wineka@salisburypost.com.

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