FORT SMITH (KFSM) — You may remember the story from two weeks ago about a man who has been working for Coca-Cola for nearly eight decades. Since then, Fred Kirkpatrick’s story has caught the attention of news outlets worldwide.
“First I heard about it was when my granddaughter in New Jersey called me and said my friend in Staten Island called and said there's a man on TV in Fort Smith and my granddaughter said that's my grandfather,” Kirkpatrick said.
The story has been picked up in Boston, London and Australia just to name a few. Kirkpatrick's story was also noticed by employees at Coca-Cola’s Headquarters in Atlanta.
“Suddenly Facebook explodes,” said Atlanta-based archivist Ted Ryan. “I watched the video, and I sent it immediately to our PR team and said I want to go meet him.”
Ryan sat down with Kirkpatrick Tuesday (May 23) with a videographer capturing 45 minutes of them trading stories.
“I read about Coca-Cola and I'm the archivist,” Ryan explained. “I know the history, but Mr. K lived it.”
The museum at the Coca-Cola plant on Phoenix Ave. has exhibits with mementos and artifacts from various eras, but the one with 1938 memorabilia is the most significant year to Kirkpatrick because it’s when he started working there.
“Coca-Cola has been in Fort Smith since 1903,” he said. “We’ve contributed millions of dollars to the economy in Fort Smith. It’s very unusual for one family, the Meek Family to own and manage a business through four generations.”
Ryan added, “I've been to a lot of Coca-Cola bottling plants around the world. I've never seen one that has Mr. K’s attention to detail, and when I was talking to him, I told him,`You're a wonderful storyteller.’”
With his 80th anniversary coming up on Nov. 1 and no plans to retire, Kirkpatrick said he wants his work-ethic to be his legacy.
“That's the way I want to be remembered that I showed up everyday for work and enjoyed the work,” he said.
The video shot by Coca-Cola will be added to the company’s global website in the next few days.