SIDNEY — Shelby County AAA staff members surprised State Farm insurance agent Bob Schweitzer with a potluck lunch in his honor, Friday, in their offices.
Schweitzer will retire Aug. 31 after 45 years in the business, most of them in an office in the same building as the AAA office.
He’s having a hard time saying goodbye.
“I insured mom and dad and then their children and grandchildren. It just became like family,” he said recently. “I’m going to miss the policy-holders. I’ve watched them grow.”
It’s been a long time since Schweitzer held his first job. When he was in the fifth grade, the Sidney native got up at 4:30 every morning to deliver the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper to subscribers in one part of town. At 15, he got a job at Kroger’s. He became a department head there when he graduated from high school at 18.
But he moved to Miami Bakery not long after that and, until he was 33, worked as a supervisor there, developing truck routes.
“The company (State Farm Insurance) approached me,” he said, of how he became an agent. “It took them three times. I didn’t want anything to do with that.” He had been referred by an agent in Piqua who had once worked with Schweitzer at the bakery.
“I became an agent after saying, ‘No,’ three times. It was scary as the dickens,” Schweitzer said. Married then, with four young children, he was worried about his ability to attract enough customers to provide for his family.
“We ate a lot of tomato soup,” he said. ” I was working 60 to 70 hours a week when I started. But it became the most rewarding job I could ever have, to help the people with life insurance, to be there with the people when they have a problem.”
As he takes down his proverbial shingle, he leaves behind a client list that still includes the people to whom he sold his first homeowner’s policy and the children of the people who bought his first auto policy. State Farm will transfer Schweitzer’s accounts to a new agent in Sidney.
When his clients received the letters he sent that announced his retirement, they began calling and dropping by the office in droves.
“They got me crying,” Schweitzer admitted. “It’s the closeness that develops, the trust you build, the loyalty. I think that’s more important than anything else. That’s a good feeling. You can look anyone in the eye and have a smile.”
Amanda Hayden, who has worked with him for the last 22 years, will move to another job, but she will miss working with Bob.
“I grew up here. It’s the only adult job I’ve had. He taught me the lay of the land. I feel like I’m leaving home,” she said.
Schweitzer looks forward to having time to read — fiction is his favorite type of book — and to travel, especially to visit his children and their families. Sons Tom, in Huber Heights, Jim, in Huntington Beach, California, and Joseph, in Westerville, and daughter Cathy, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, have given him seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
“On Father’s Day and Christmas, they all come home and we have water fights in the backyard,” he said.
A member of State Farm’s Millionaire’s Club, he traveled extensively with the company. He’s enjoyed giving away his office furniture to people who have been very grateful to get it.
“Things you can do for people to make them feel good, boy, do it,” he said.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.