When Newton Murray — everyone calls him Mr. Newton — moved from his native Trinidad to Tampa, Florida, he went to Harry H. Bell & Sons cold storage facility and applied for a job as a janitor. He got the job, and began sweeping and cleaning 90,000 square feet of enclosed warehouse space, plus parking lots and loading docks, for minimum wage. That was 33 years ago. Since then, the now 99-year-old man has never arrived for work late, never left work early, never said no, and never asked for - or received - a raise.

In 2000, the two-block-long complex where he NewtonMurrayFaceworked, and works, was sold, to Bama Sea Products. As this piece in the Tampa Bay Times details, the new owners were in the process of moving in when this old man showed up for work. The general manager said the building had been sold, and it was no longer Harry Bell's.

"No matter, Cap'n," John Jackson remembers him saying. "I come with the property." Obviously Jackson let him stay. "What was I going to do?" The next day, Mr. Newton came back, bringing his own broom this time, and he has been coming back ever since, though he has cut his work week back to just three days.

What long days those are though. From the time his alarm clock goes off, at 3:30 a.m., it typically takes him 30 minutes to make his way to the kitchen to make tea. After dressing and packing some fried chicken for lunch, it's a 20-minute, two-block walk to the bus stop. Finally, some four hours after waking up, he arrives at work.

Mr. Newton seems friendly, but he doesn't talk much, and doesn't share much. One thing he apparently for sure doesn't talk about is retirement.

He tells the Tampa Bay Times he keeps going because the people at Bama depend on him. "I cannot let them down. They need me."

"I cannot let them down. They need me."

 It takes Mr. Newton about eight hours to sweep and clear both parking lots and the warehouse of trash. "We could probably get a young guy with a leaf blower to do his job in an hour," says Michael Stephens, Bama's lawyer and son of the owner. "But this place just wouldn't be the same without Mr. Newton."
Several years ago Newton's supervisor came to see Stephens' dad, Bama's owner, saying that the old guy was a liability, an accident waiting to happen, and that he should be let go.

The owner agreed, but in the end didn't have the heart to tell him, so that was the end of that.

Newton's stepdaughter says when he first came to Florida he really didn't have to go to work. After all, he had just retired after toiling in the oil fields of Trinidad for Texaco for 40 years, and could have lived on his modest pension.

Instead, he began looking for work as soon as he landed in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. Someone introduced him to the folks at Harry Bell, where he worked until Bama bought the building and inherited its custodian.

"Life can't always be easy, but you do your best and be grateful."

The Times piece says in all his years of working — more than 84 — no one has ever asked him if he likes his job. "Life can't always be easy, but you do your best and be grateful," he says.

Wow. What a story. What a work ethic. What a sweet soul. Certainly there are plenty of things to take away from this story. But is there something more? Should Mr. Newton have asked for a raise? Should he have been offered one at some point during all those years of hard, steady work even though he didn't ask? Or did this turn out just the way it was supposed to?

Tags: News, Newton Murray, Harry H. Bell & Sons, Bama Sea Products, Tampa Bay Times, Texaco, Tampa-St. Petersburg