Give it to Glenn Jeffries - he’s persistent. Just ask his granddaughter Heather Wolfe.
Wolfe, an art teacher at South Doyle High School, recently arranged a tour for Jeffries of Newell Rubbermaid’s Maryville facility where Sharpie markers are made.
“He likes the Sharpie brand. When he read in 2009 that they were going to make Sharpies in Maryville (at the Newell Rubbermaid plant), he decided he wanted to tour the plant where they make his favorite marker. Since then, he has been asking me once or twice a month to get an appointment to tour the plant,” she said. “He was so persistent, and I realized I had to get this done for my grandfather.”
Jeffries is 96 and is a retired TVA mechanical engineer. He used to be a woodcarver as a hobby, but now he does wood burning. He uses the Sharpies to decorate the wooden, almost plate-like discs that he burns designs into.
“Sharpies come in so many colors, and they’re permanent,” Jeffries, who likes to be called Papa J, said. “I do line work with the burner, making designs. I color them with the Sharpies, and they don’t smear. It a real interesting hobby.”
The retired engineer said that years ago he went to Arrowmont Institute in Gatlinburg where someone was doing wood burning. “It got my attention, and I later bought a burning outfit for $250 to $300,” he said. “That is what I’ve been doing since then.”
Wolfe said her grandfather switched from wood working to wood burning as he got older. “He lost a lot of his ability to grasp and hold, so this is how his art has evolved. He started doing these wooden disks and wanted to color them in,” she said. “Sharpies are really easy to hold, and they have vibrant, permanent colors and don’t bleed.”
The art teacher said she tried working through friends or acquaintances to get her grandfather’s story to the Sharpie people, but nothing ever developed. Then, earlier this year, Wolfe was able to make contact with someone in the company, and the doors opened wide. They toured the plant on March 9, met many of the Sharpie associates, had lunch with the management team and gave him plenty of Sharpie pens to take home.
Jeffries said it was a wonderful day. “They treated me like a king,” he said.
Jeffries made some of his wooden art work and took it to the plant to show them, including a piece commemorating his visit.
Wolfe said she and her grandfather appreciated how accommodating and down-to-earth the Newell Rubbermaid staff and management were. “They are a world-wide manufacturer, and they spent three hours with us, and seemed so appreciative that we came,” she said.
The company is even creating a wall to showcase Jeffries’ artwork and his love of Sharpie. The associates gave him all the Sharpies he could ever use, Wolfe said. “They showered him with gifts. He walked out with $400 to $500 worth of Sharpie markers. He has a life supply,” she said.
Jeffries was also touched by their attention. “They just took me in, and I felt like they were family,” he said.
This isn’t the first time Jeffries has asked his granddaughter for help touring a facility that makes a product he likes. Jeffries got the opportunity to tour the locations where Keebler cookies, Country Crock Butter and Mayfield’s products are made.
“When he likes a product, he finds out about the company, makes artwork for them and shares it with them,” said her granddaughter. “He’s really interesting. When you meet him, you love him.”
Scottie Mayfield made arrangements for him to see the plant and ended up inviting him to his house.
“Wood burning has opened a lot of doors,” Jeffries said.