Aisle of Dreams
So it came as a shock when, a few weeks after James Glenn Dudley Jr. died of cancer at 85 last June, his friend Frank Cairns, a financial consultant and the executor of his estate, approached Rico in the store. "I have a check for you," he said. A large one, it turned out: a $10,000 bequest from Dudley, who had left equal amounts to Peeks, deli worker Loretta Griggs, 54, produce clerk Sartesia Jones, 29, and another—undisclosed—Kroger employee. A larger check, for $30,000, went to bagger Jesse Gray, 59, a father of six who was so stunned, recalls Cairns, "he just started to shake my hand and he just wouldn't let go."
The workers were equally surprised to learn that their gruff customer was actually a wealthy, retired Atlanta podiatrist who left a $700,000 estate. (Most went to friends and relatives. Although Dudley outlived two wives, he left a daughter and two grandchildren.) Even friends knew Dudley, a product of the Depression, as a frugal man with no taste for luxury. "He wore what he wanted to wear," says Cairns. "He did what he wanted to do."
Even in death. In April, Dudley told Cairns he planned to show his gratitude to a few people. Though the money is nice, says Rico (who spent it on a gold cross and to pay some bills), "it showed me that I really impacted someone. That's what made me feel so good."