From school teacher to McDade’s Market courtesy clerk, Ray Lee – Mr. Ray to his customers – is finally slowing down.

He’s having to. It’s a little harder for the 82 year-old to get around these days (he had been walking to work and paying someone to take him home – $2, he tells). On Thursday, he hung up his apron for good.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” Lee says, wearing slacks and a sport coat, sitting in the front of the store with a flower on his lapel. “Everyone has been so nice to me. Very seldom have I had one who was rude to me. Very seldom, but that’s life. They have been good and thoughtful.”

On the occasion of his retirement, the store where he has worked for six years – eight for McDade’s Markets – a retirement “party” was held. “Y’all want a piece of this retirement cake? There’s one or two left!” he shouts to a customer coming in the front door. “Hey grandpa,” he says to a man younger than him – who promptly calls him an an ‘old fart.’ Lee laughs. “An old fart, huh?”

In the course of five minutes, he can’t get a single sentence out to a reporter before being interrupted with well wishers, some handing him money. “Thank you! God bless! Lee says to a customer who hands him $5. He tells how much money customers have given him today in the short time he’s been sitting up front.

He deserves it. Lee has a display setup, proudly showing off photos of his godchildren who he attended to for many years, helping to raise them in a sense. “I just baked their mom a cake the other night,” he says of his giving nature. “I had money one time and I spent it all on them,” he says with no misgivings at all. “Ballet, swimming, karate – whatever they needed I made sure they did. I helped them buy a house once.”

Eddie Prosser, store manager at the Woodland Hills Shopping Center store where Lee has worked for six years, says Lee will be the company’s first-ever “retiree.” “I think he has a few more good years in him,” Prosser says, wishing to have kept Lee around a bit longer.  “He’s been an asset to the store. The customers hate to see him go.”

Publisher’s Note: Good luck, Mr. Ray! We always appreciated your pleasant demeanor and helpful attitude every time we shopped the store.