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Service with a smile

Will Ellis shines shoes at Trim Barber Shop. He first learned the trade in the 1940s while serving in the Navy. Jenny Walling / LTN Photo

Certain things come naturally to William “Will” Ellis.
Going to church at Second Baptist Church every Sunday.
Riding his bike around town.
And shining shoes.
Will’s work station can be found in the far left hand corner of Trim Barber Shop, located at the corner of Academy and Water streets. Those not looking for his services may not even notice the quiet, well-mannered man. Will says his passive behavior started in childhood.
“Growing up, my daddy was a farmer and a Baptist preacher. He told me children should be seen and not heard and it stuck with me.”
That advice has served Will well. He feels he is a good listener as a result. Most of his conversations with his clients revolve around shoes.
“I’m a good listener. I don’t talk too much,” he says. “Courtesy will carry you a long way.”
Will was born in Cleveland County. At home he spent time in the fields picking cotton before joining the Navy. His time in the service took him to Florida, Cuba, Brazil and the West Indies and taught him a trade — shining shoes. He spent spare time on the ship polishing shoes to make a few extra dollars.
“I never did do it just for a living,” he says.
Full-time jobs consisted of driving a truck, working in a mill and serving as a security guard.
“I’ve been a jack of all trades,” he says. “You’ve got to make a living for your family.”
At age 80 Will now works at Trim Barber Shop 10 hours a day, five days a week. Business is unpredictable but the extra income helps.
“Some days you don’t do nothing. Some days you do. It’s enough to keep me off Welfare,” he says.
Will rides his bike to work every day, except Wednesday and Sundays. He considers himself an active man for his age. He is a Shriner and a Mason and loves every minute of it.
“I’m the oldest guy I know there,” he says. “That’s my heart.”
Will’s friends and church family keep him going. His children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren all live in California and Florida, but he says Lincolnton is his home.
“When I came to see my wife, I thought this was the prettiest place, and I decided this is the place I want to die.”
by Diane Turbyfill

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