Today may be the first day of the work week, but there is no dread on the face of Macon’s Tom Flournoy.
He has been loving Mondays for seven decades. A sign on the edge of his desk reads: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”
He will celebrate his 92nd birthday in two weeks. He has worked for the same company since 1938. New York Life recently recognized him as the oldest of its some 8,000 agents.
Maybe he should change his business card from New York Life to New York Long Life.
Some folks are born to be preachers. Some are born to be teachers. Others are born to design, build, paint, write, add, subtract and change the world.
Tom was born to be a salesman. His colleagues swear he could sell ice to an Eskimo and dirt to a farmer.
It all started when he was 4 years old and his family left its home in Fort Valley to vacation in North Carolina. He took a copy of The Macon Telegraph and hawked it in the hotel lobby. The issue was several days old and not exactly local news. Maybe he should have claimed it was from Macon, N.C., instead of Macon, Ga.
When he got older, he planted his own garden and sold the carrots and turnips for a dime. He later raised his own chickens and marketed the eggs. He also went door-to-door selling the Saturday Evening Post.
It came as no surprise that he became Fort Valley’s first Eagle Scout. His father was a land surveyor and was responsible for laying out the Fort Valley State College campus.
Tom has been selling life insurance since he graduated from Mercer in 1938 with a degree in economics.
“It has been rewarding to be able to help people,” he said.
The best investment he ever made was to a young school teacher in Gordon. She was a beauty queen, and it was much easier to sell her a policy than to get a date.
He kept trying until he did, and they married four months later on June 2, 1940. He and his wife, Frances, have three children – sons Tom III and Carson and daughter, Fran Matthews. Both Tom III and Carson followed their father into the life insurance business.
He loves to tell the story about selling a policy to burlesque dancer Sally Rand when she came to the Georgia State Fair one year as part of the hoochie-coochie show.
A Wesleyan student named Neva Langley worked part-time in his office in the early 1950s. The following year, she was crowned Miss America.
Tom has left his mark on the community, too. He served eight years as a county commissioner, chairing the roads and bridges committee during a time that saw the creation and development of Macon State College, Lake Tobesofkee and Eisenhower Parkway.
Over the years, he has given away thousands of promotional pens, pencils, calendars and spiral notebooks.
He laughed that he sold almost as many policies on the golf course as he did in the office. His partners certainly had to walk and talk fast. In the days before carts, Tom would walk so briskly he could play 18 holes in 90 minutes. He wore out so many caddies at Idle Hour that they used to hide in the woods when they saw him coming.
He once played a round of golf with Chi Chi Rodriguez and would still be swinging his clubs were it not for the onset of Parkinson’s disease, which has affected his balance.
But he still shows up for work each day. He looks forward to Mondays ... and Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, too.
He is a testament to the age-old creed.
Find a job you love. You’ll never work a day in your life.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.