“It’s been a well-spent journey,” John Nichols begins.
Big John, as his colleagues nicknamed him, reflects on his life a week before retirement. He was 45 years old when he started as a forklift operator and packager for Edgcomb steel (now Kloeckner Metals) in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. “I never in my life expected to be here for this long. But when a company is good to you, you’re loyal,” he proudly explains.
John was born and raised in Gadsden, Alabama. 1 of 8 kids, he learned early on the importance of looking out for family. Growing up, his father’s work ethic inspired him, “My daddy would get up, go to work, and he never complained. I saw that and I thought, I want to provide for my family. When I leave here, I want to leave a good impression.”
John’s journey has been well-spent because at each step, he has shown his commitments and convictions care, motivating those around him to be their very best. He continues, “I want them to know what Big John stands for. I stand for what’s right. I don’t stand for foolishness.”
Stand for What’s Right
John enlisted in the army at 18 and served for the next three years. Between this time and when he started at Edgecomb in 1993, he traveled around, going wherever the jobs were. He went as far as Milwaukee and Oregon. Until he returned to Alabama and fell in love.
After 33 years of marriage, and 23 years at Kloeckner Metals, John’s wife fell ill and passed on. During this difficult time, John used up all of his vacation days to care for her. His other family at Kloeckner Metals Murfreesboro stepped up to support him.
“They really mesmerized me,” John recounts. Everyone came together and donated their vacation days, giving John the time he needed, “it was really heartwarming, I didn’t ever think that was gonna happen.”
Call of Duty
As a veteran, devoted father, grandfather, and hardworking man, John understands loyalty as, “the call of duty, to help your fellow brother.” As a confidante and teacher, someone who loves what he does, and holds everyone around him to a high standard, John models Kloeckner’s values and affirms company culture.
Additionally, John is quick to show his humble side, urging, “I wasn’t a perfect individual – I had to learn! People had to take the time to teach me.” Empathizing with the pressures on all of us today, Big John understands that fellowship is necessary to make it through this life.
The relationships with colleagues, friends, and family are precious. Big John believes that, “If you can do something, and it don’t have to be money, it can be time and words of encouragement, you just try to make them feel at home, relaxed, at peace, and offer them motivation. You have to show them that you ain’t gotta go through the world bein’ a bully. You’ve got to help others along the way.”
We’ll remember Big John for these moving convictions, and continue to offer a culture that values them.
Sara Montijo is a writer for Kloeckner Metals. She graduated with honors from NYU and has previously facilitated multimedia programming and worked alongside renowned chefs. Her friends call her a time warp.