Difference Maker – Rex E. Padgett

Despite all the rumbling nowadays about America losing its work ethic, there is evidence right here in Gadsden County, that that work ethic is still going strong–at least by one man. Ninety-five-year-old Rex E. Padgett of Padgett’s Jewelers, 21 E. Jefferson Street in Quincy, still goes to work every day. Mr. Padgett established his business on April 1, 1952, on Washington Street in Chattahoochee. He and his wife, the late Joyce Bates, moved to Quincy in 1976, first buying out and moving into W. L. Wood Jewelers and later relocating to the Belk-Hudson Building.

The couple had five children who literally grew up in the store. Virginia (Beth) Padgett, their youngest girl, is now her father’s right-hand woman. She is the one who gets him to work, to all his appointments, and keeps him socialized and on his toes by hosting card games, which he often wins. She manages the store and has been instrumental in many improvements and upgrades. What started out as mainly a jewelry store with repair service has evolved into a high-end shop housing all things beautiful such as the jewelry, gorgeous chinaware, Christmas decorations, clocks, figurines, children’s gifts, purses, and even small items such as fancy bookmarks. Anyone who receives a gift wrapped in Padgett gift paper can’t help but be excited about what they are going to find within that wrapping.

Mr. Padgett, as always, works in the back still doing some repairs although they have hired another quality repairman as well.  With so much knowledge and experience, Mr. Padgett remains the heart of the store, and in the hearts of the customers who have been going there, relying on his expertise, advice, and even his jokes for the past 71 years.

Q: What made you decide on the jewelry business?

A: It wasn’t really my decision. My father owned a small jewelry store. One day when I was 12, he found me in the workshop putting together a dollar watch. I had put one together earlier, but he didn’t know it. At 13 when I was at it again, he told me I was going to quit my paper route and work in his shop. I had bad feet, and he was sure I would never be able to serve in the army or have a job where I had to stand up. He felt this was the perfect career for me. I was there until I was twenty-two. I didn’t think I would ever get out. It was slow going but I finally did.

Q: Did you believe you would be repairing jewelry for 71 years?

A: The women in my life don’t treat me well. My wife kept saying, “You can retire in 5 years”, and each time the five was up, she added 5 more. After she passed, my daughter Beth took over and she kept up the five year retirement talk. I don’t think she can add five more now because I’ll be over 100 by then.

Q: What training did you have?

A: As a kid I learned by trial and error. In my father’s shop it was on-the-job training at first. Then I began taking classes every year to keep up. Just like I couldn’t get out of that shop, I’ve never been able to stop school. This business changes all the time. It’s changing now. There were no battery watches when I started. Now that’s about all there is. I will say time is accurate on all watches regardless of the price. Today it’s hard to find someone who can work on old watches.

Q: What was the main difference between your business in Chattahoochee and business in Quincy?

A: In Chattahoochee the bank wouldn’t loan you much money. I’m sure they didn’t want to get people into debt they’d have trouble repaying. In Quincy, they loaned me so much money it scared me. I was afraid I’d never be able to pay it back, but I did. Quincy turned out to be good for us.

Q: To what do you attribute your work ethic?

A: That’s simple. I never had enough money to do what I wanted to do so I just kept working. Then I had those women in my life always pushing me with their 5-year plans. The truth is I’ve never enjoyed sitting home and doing nothing. I like being active.

Q: Have you had time to have a little fun?

A:  I’ve enjoyed it here. I’ve had a little money to do a few things. We learned to scallop and did it for 3 days over the 4th of July each year. That was our vacation. My wife and I loved to water ski. One time, when we were dating, she decided we should ski from Bainbridge to Chattahoochee. I fell into the water just before the dam, so we didn’t quite make it. We were so close, but I’ve always said I failed her. I always wanted a boat of my own and I’ve finally got one with a nice motor but I’m too old to go out in it by myself and always must get someone to go with me. I complain about that.

Q: Do you have any advice to give us on how to reach 95?

A: No. I know elderly people often give such advice, but I don’t think I had anything to do with it. It’s all up to God. He is the One who decides these matters. We have painted on our building, “Give God, the glory, honor and praise that is rightfully His.”

Q: What would you like people to remember about you?

A: I’ve tried to live a good life. I’m not perfect, but I’ve tried and so far I’ve never been locked up-that is- so far.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

A: Yes, I have one final achievement. I renewed my driver’s license, and it is now good until I’m 101. Of course, I don’t drive anymore, but when I passed the vision test everyone in the office clapped. Other than that, I have nothing to add. I’ve probably said too much already.

Judy Conlin


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