- Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2015

APPLETON, Wis. (AP) - Eric Edwards has long described life as awesome, but it was still a big thrill to move past a milestone that provided yet more evidence.

Edwards, 43, of Appleton, celebrated his 25th anniversary with Copps recently. His tenure started at its Calumet Street store and he moved onto the Valley Fair location that replaced it. His duties are best described in his own words:

“My main jobs are bagging groceries and making people happy,” he said.

He’s a favorite among shoppers. Edwards, who has Down syndrome, brought some treats into the store to share with co-workers before celebrating his achievement in the most appropriate way.

He took a few days off.

Edwards started the job while a senior at Appleton East High School and quickly learned he found his niche.

“I’m a people person,” he told Post-Crescent Media (https://post.cr/1P0C76F ). “I love to talk to people.”

Store director Charlie Kilburg congratulated Edwards, and said he’s an important part of the team. Everyone knows him, and many, he said, are willing to wait in a longer line to gain the benefit of Edwards’ conversation and enthusiasm.

It’s genuine. It couldn’t be faked.

“There could be a tornado in the parking lot, and he’d say he’s fantastic and awesome,” Kilburg said.

Customers embrace his energy, Kilburg said.

Jenny Rodman is a former colleague of Eric’s at Copps and still is a customer who enjoys the opportunities to chat with him.

“He puts a smile on your face, and if you’re not having such a good day, he changes everything,” she said. “He doesn’t have negativity.”

Edwards’ mom, Christine Cornell, has heard from those who head to the store needing to get their “Eric fix.” Though as a mom, pride runs deeper. He volunteers at the Fox Valley Warming Shelter, for The Salvation Army and at church.

He’s advocated on behalf of those with disabilities, and in 2009 received Appleton East’s Patriot Award, which recognizes outstanding alumni.

Edwards doesn’t expect special treatment, though appreciates a helping hand, Cornell said.

He isn’t one to complain, and he’s happy with where he’s at and what he’s accomplished. He lives on his own in a townhouse not too far from work, but far enough to need rides from family. He surmised that it’s really been his only big, life challenge.

“I don’t drive,” he said. “If I could, it would be a white, Ford pickup truck.”

At the end of the work day, he likes to have dinner and listen to music or watch television. His tastes lean to the 1980s whether music or shows including “Dallas” and “Three’s Company.” He likes to bowl, and while at home, enjoys his game room space.

Edwards said he enjoys time with family and volunteer work with his mother.

At the tail end of his vacation, he admitted he was ready to get back to work - and with great pride in reaching 25 years of doing what he loves.

“It’s a big honor to me,” Edwards said.

___

Information from: Post-Crescent Media, https://www.postcrescent.com

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