I wish I would have kept records of my earliest customers—from 1981 to 1990. So many of them are long forgotten. Back then I never thought I would ever need those records. Those first customers were the most fought for, and, of course, they were all new. Mrs. Collins, for example, told me that her first impression of me wasn’t that good, because I came to do the estimate in shorts and a t-shirt. But after a while I guess she got to like me and the way I explained how I would do the work—and also, the page of references I gave her. She liked my work so much that I was called back three different times, every 7 years or so. The last time I painted the house it was up for sale. She was moving. So sad to see her go. But she did give me a lead on another house—her parents’ house. Of course, I got that job. I always get referrals.
Another early customer was Mrs. Hartill. I can’t remember how exactly I got that job, either from an ad in a local paper, or she heard of me from a friend. Well anyway, Mrs. Hartill just happened to be the widow of my favorite professor at Northwestern College, J. Edwin Hartill. I was so surprised to find out who she was. The first job she had for me was the entire outside of the house. At that time, I had a crew of 3 or 4 of us—so we got it done pretty fast.
In the next few years, she also called me for some inside work, and those times it was just me. I will never forget her kindness and hospitality. At lunch break she always insisted that I eat with her. And she always had quite a spread—so many things to eat. But food wasn’t the only thing she offered me. Being the wife of Dr. Hartill, she of course was full of bible knowledge and good stories. I always came away from lunch not only with my stomach full but spiritually filled as well.
I think sometime in the mid 1980’s I met Jill Wilson. She had (has) a beautiful house on a lake. At the time, she was recently divorced and had three young kids and a pot belly pig that walked around inside the house like a dog. So funny. I think I painted that house about three times: in the 1980’s, and then about in 1995, and again about 2000.
I sort of lost track of her for a few years, but then her friend surprisingly knew me and spoke of me. I had painted for her too. So, Jill got a hold of me again. It was so good to see her again and paint for her again. Her kids now are all grown up, and one of her girls, now married, has also given me some work. She is also very friendly just like her mom.
I think I met Dick and Kate in the early 90’s just when I was going through my divorce. I think I have painted their entire house three times. I also did some inside painting and wallpapering, and even some painting at their cabin. Oh, I also have done quite a bit of painting of their many offices that they own. So, they have really kept me busy.
They are a little hard to deal with at times, and Dick for some reason likes to help out—he slows me down. On the plus side, they are so hospitable and always insist that I join them for lunch every day when I am working. Kate will talk my ear off with her stories, but I have grown to just love her—and Dick too.
Silvia Belmont is a real gem. She is in her 90’s, but still gets around and plays her grand piano every day. She has a very heavy Norwegian accent, and I love to hear her talk. I’ve painted the outside of her house four or five times. I never get tired of working for her. Recently, she took a fall and had some brain damage. I hope she recovers, but I know God will take her soon.
I have done work for so many wonderful people over the years. Many of them have moved away or passed on. I wish I could remember them all, especially those early ones; I foolishly destroyed their files. I counted about 20 clients that I presently have that I have done work for, for over 30 years. It’s so good to have kept them for customers this long.
Since I am retired now (have been retired for five years), I think my business will soon be ending. But some of my memories of customers will always remain, and I thank God for them. At first my business was all about work, work, work—to make money. But as the years past, I have learned not to work so hard and not to be so focused on making money. It is better to concentrate on doing a good job, whatever it takes. A good reputation and happy customers are far better than earning a little extra money. And who knows what influence as a Christian worker I will have made on a customer—both for the good work I do and also for my conversation with them.
A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold (Proverbs 22:1).