Monday, January 14, 2013
Gary Brewer walked into the Oakbrook WalMart on Dorchester Road, obviously in a rush, harried by the urgency of his holiday errands, when a voice stopped him in his tracks. Following the sound, he soon found the source – a lively African American woman with a bright smile wearing a WalMart greeter’s uniform standing near one of the entrances to the store.
She was singing, all by herself, unaccompanied. Fascinated, he stopped to listen to her.
“She has one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard,” he said. “I could have stood there and just listened for an hour.”
Brewer is not the first to be captivated by the soulful sweet vocal stylings and hundred-watt smile of WalMart greeter Rose Ella Holmes. In fact, ask almost anyone – customer or employee alike -- about the woman who sings in the store, and the universal answer is, “That’s Miss Rose. If she’s working today, she’ll probably be down there.”
“Down there” is the Pharmacy side entrance to the store. She has been working at this store for nearly 20 years, the last 10 as a greeter. But while she loves her job, she notes it’s also an avenue for a higher calling. She sings, she says, because the Holy Spirit spoke to her and told her to help God’s people, to show them they are loved.
“I love my job because God gave me my job,” she said. “I love my customers and I love ministering to them. I sing to glorify God and to thank Him for my life. He put me here to do His work.”
That Miss Rose makes a strong and positive impression is quickly apparent. Customers come by constantly to say hello, to listen to her sing, sometimes even to ask her to pray for them or with them.
She sings Gospel and church music, in what she calls the “old timey” style. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. As she sings, people slow down, stop to listen, then go on their way, their steps seemingly a little lighter, their faces happier.
As she speaks, a family walks by. They smile, greet her by name. This will happen frequently throughout her shift.
“People come up and tell me all the time they appreciate me,” she says. “They’ll tell me they appreciate me being at the door, that my songs are a blessing to them and to everyone who comes through that door. A lot of them will ask me to pray for them, too. A lot of them want to talk.”
That’s not all they’ll do. In fact, over the years, customers have presented her with a variety of gifts, mostly small jewelry pins she wore for years on her greeter’s vest before WalMart changed the uniform. The pins were often in the shape of angels, music notes, or other similar objects. But not all of them were pins, she said.
“The first one was an angel doll,” she said. “I don’t even know who gave it to me – someone just reached over my shoulder and put it in my hand.”
Another time, a man brought her a beautifully carved wooden cross. That cross now sits on an altar in her church, she said.
Her ministry is also not confined to WalMart. A member of Ashley Baptist Church, she is the president of the choir, and she ministers in the community. She has written a book, “Rose Songs,” which chronicles her life in Christ and her calling to evangelism, and she has just finished recording a CD of Gospel songs, she said.