Wil Gardner

Every person has the power to make others happy.
Some do it simply by entering a room
others by leaving the room.
Some individuals leave trails of gloom;
others, trails of joy.
Some leave trails of hate and bitterness;
others, trails of love and harmony.
Some leave trails of cynicism and pessimism;
others trails of faith and optimism.
Some leave trails of criticism and resignation;
others trails of gratitude and hope.
What kind of trails do you leave?
— William Arthur Ward

Many of you know that Chaplain Wil recently retired from Simmons. As I stood next to him during his retirement party, I couldn’t help but be taken in by some of the things that were said about who he is and what he had accomplished. Wil worked for Simmons for 31 years, and it was incredible to see the smiles and the tears of those in that room whom Wil had built a relationship with over the years. For some, Wil had been a listening ear and a source of wisdom during difficult times. Some he had visited in the hospital when they or a family member was ill. Some of you recounted a funeral or a wedding that Wil was part of.

photo (10).jpg

I shared a story of one employee who came up to me during my first week of training at Simmons. She leaned in close and said, “I’m sure you’re a fine young man, but you will never be Wil Gardner.” And then she just walked away. Haha, I can laugh about it now, but being that this happened on my second day, I was wondering what I was in for! What she lacked in tact, she made up for in truth. Wil is one of the finest men I have ever met, and I have been so blessed to have him as a boss, a mentor, and a friend.

As the retirement party was winding down, I began to think of Wil’s legacy within Simmons. What an incredible mark that he is leaving on a company! I started to think about my legacy. What kind of mark do I want to leave on Simmons Foods? I want to challenge you to ask yourself the same question. In your role, in your area of leadership and influence, what kind of legacy are you leaving? If your time here were to end today, could you say you’ve had a positive influence on those who work around you? Have you invested in and made conscious efforts to enhance or better the lives of those you come in contact each day? How have you influenced our customers, or your fellow employees in other facilities that you speak with every day? What will be said of you?

Frank and I decided to put together all of the Notes for the Journey blogs that we had written this past year and make it into a book to give to Wil at his retirement. I asked Mark and Todd to write a Foreward for the book and I want to share Todd’s words to Wil:


You have been a wonderful leader throughout your career at Simmons. In your former role, countless people looked to you as an informal leader and role model. But in your current role, it has been amazing the hours that you, Nick, and Frank have put in over the years. I know you knew there was a need in our company, or you wouldn't have taken the role, but only God knew the true need. And it has truly been overwhelming!

The team you have helped create at Simmons is second to none in dealing with the needs of our people. Thank you for stepping up, and filling the gap for our folks in their times of need and in their times of celebration. There is a place for faith in the workplace, and you have demonstrated that fact with Grace and Humility.

Todd Simmons - CEO and Vice Chairman, Simmons Foods Inc. and Affiliates