TAMPA — Bobby McAulay, a route driver and salesman for Pepsi-Cola who never missed a day of work in 35 years, died Sunday at home. He was 74 and had lived in Tampa since 1957.
Mr. McAulay supplied restaurants with the tanks that fed fountains their sodas, always wearing dark pants and a striped shirt with a patch that said, "Bobby" in blue thread.
He rose before dawn. He pulled his socks from the middle dresser drawer dedicated only to socks, his shoes from a shoe rack in the closet. By 6 a.m., he was at the Pepsi distribution plant, ready to hit the road.
At each stop, Mr. McAulay hopped in the back of his truck to retrieve another 5-gallon tank.
"He couldn't have been 110 pounds, wet," said former district manager Mark Brown. "The way he slung those tanks over his shoulder wore me out."
Mr. McAulay also sold cups and drummed up business for Pepsi. Customers took care of him with meals on the house.
By late afternoon, he had filed his orders for the next day and turned in his cash receipts. He ate dinner at Chick-fil-A, the eight-piece nugget meal with vanilla ice cream. Before bed, he tried to catch the television show COPS.
The next morning he started over again. Mr. McAulay repeated this basic routine from June 7, 1965, to Dec. 31, 2000. He never called in sick.
"He felt that unless you are dead or dying, you went to work," said Betty McAulay, his wife of 55 years. "He had colds, he had the flu."
When doctors said he needed cataract surgery, Mr. McAulay insisted on using vacation days rather than sick leave.
In the 1970s, Mr. McAulay slipped in a parking lot and broke a kneecap. Another worker drove and made deliveries while Mr. McAulay did paperwork from the passenger seat.
"He worked four to five weeks with basically a broken leg," said Brown, 50.
At his retirement party at SeaWorld, co-workers calculated that Mr. McAulay had delivered enough Pepsi to fill Shamu's tank 2 1/2 times over. His work record was even more remarkable than they might have realized.
For 10 years leading up to the Pepsi job, Mr. McAulay fixed tires for a company on Tampa Street. He never missed a day there, either. His last day at Pioneer Tire Co. was a half-day on Saturday, June 5, 1965.
"When he got off Pioneer on Saturday, he started straight in at Pepsi on Monday," his wife said. That adds up to perfect attendance for 45 years straight.
Retirement was one long vacation. The McAulays visited Denmark and Japan, Europe and Hawaii.
Doctors found lung cancer in September. The disease did not respond to chemotherapy.
Saturday evening, Betty asked her husband what he wanted for dinner. Soon Mr. McAulay was sitting up in bed with an eight-piece nugget meal from Chick-fil-A. True to form, he finished off his last meal with vanilla ice cream.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or email@example.com.