"I guess it's medicine for me," she said about why she's still working. "I love to be busy doing something. The only time I'm not busy, I'm sick or asleep."
It's been two decades since Romay Davis decided to take a job stocking shelves and tidying up at Winn-Dixie in Montgomery, Alabama at the age of 81. Now, at 101-years-old, Davis has outlasted most co-workers and even the existence of the East Boulevard store where she originally worked. However, she hasn't let her age, or the pandemic, stop her from driving herself to work five days a week. "I guess it's medicine for me," Davis told the Montgomery Advertiser about why she's still working. "I love to be busy doing something. The only time I'm not busy, I'm sick or asleep."
Romay Davis, who served during World War II as part of an all-Black, all-female Army unit, was celebrated this week in Alabama in a parade made up of city and state officials, volunteers, neighbors and fellow veterans. https://t.co/GsruVrbjNS— Stars and Stripes (@starsandstripes) November 5, 2020
Wanting to recognize the World War II veteran for her contributions, the Winn-Dixie parent company Southeastern Grocers set up a grant in her name on the occasion of her 101st birthday in October. According to Good Morning America, the Romay Davis Belonging, Inclusion, and Diversity Grant Program will help fund organizations in the fight for racial equity and social justice while also addressing racial disparities in education, food insecurity, and health care. Praising the concept behind the grant, Davis said she hopes it makes a difference in 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." The grant is the latest in a long line of achievements and accolades Davis has collected over the course of her life. Born on Oct. 29, 1919, in King George County, Virginia, the trailblazing centenarian served as part of the first all-Black Women Army Corps unit deployed overseas during World War II. Following the war, she pursued a career in fashion as a designer and model in New York for 30 years. Over the years, she also sang in the choir in Martin Luther King's church in Montgomery, broke boards and dropped jaws while earning a second-degree black belt in taekwondo in her 70s, been a master landscaper, an artist, a real estate agent, and flourished as an artist.
Tomorrow is our associate, Romay’s 100th birthday! She’s a WWII Vet, NYU alumni, Tae Kwon Do Black Belt, and so much more. Tune into our Facebook Live at 1:00 pm CST tomorrow as we celebrate #RomayDavisDay! pic.twitter.com/GgcYDeOs7G— Winn-Dixie (@WinnDixie) October 29, 2019
Although she retired from the workforce in 1982, she decided to go back to work in 2001 after Alzheimer’s claimed her husband, Jerry. Now, customers often come into Winn-Dixie just to talk to her or hear one of her stories, and on the occasion of her 100th birthday in 2019, the company threw her a big party where a mayoral proclamation officially named the date the Romay Davis Day in Montgomery. "I don't know what to say. Precious. Just precious," Davis said at the time. "What a beautiful day."
Her coworkers and friends showered the centenarian with praise, including customer service manager Frankie Hodges who said: "Look at her. She's a complete inspiration to us all. We get up and say, 'Oh, my back hurts.' But she gets up and does it every day." Store manager Bobby Godwin echoed Hodges' sentiment, saying: "It's unreal. She's doing more work than a 25-year-old. 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.'"
Longtime friend Stacia Robinson revealed that Davis "gets mad at her body" when it won't cooperate. "She says, 'I've got stuff to do," Robinson said. "She is an introvert in general, but she likes being counted on." Although Davis admitted that medical problems have made it tougher lately, she's holding on to a lesson her mother taught her: never give up. "Life is full," Davis said. "There's no reason to be any other way." Winn-Dixie is now honoring its treasured employee this Black History Month, describing her as "an inspiration and 'hometown hero' to her fellow associates, customers, and community."