An inclination to the way of living in his home country led Evert Castelein to an accident that left him without his right arm.
This gave way to landing a position that once required he use skates, which he continues to do even though it’s no longer required. Doing so has distinguished the Decatur man among the hundreds of Walmart employees.
But the state of mind that facilitated the transition between the aforementioned circumstances of his life exemplifies his personality, and best defines the 50-year-old.
Upon arriving in Wise County from the Netherlands in 1984, Castelein took over a dairy farm on U.S. 380, east of Decatur.
“That’s what we do back home,” he said. “We run dairies.”
For years, he raised cattle, goats and sheep, just like he did back home.
But an accident Oct. 1, 1993, flipped his life upside down.
“I don’t know what I was doing,” he said. “I ask myself that all the time. But essentially, I got my arm caught in a hay baler. I knew right away, it was no good; it was gone. But you know, I don’t look at it as a disability.”
Upon his release from the hospital, Castelein was forced to look for an alternative way to earn a living.
“After I got out of the hospital, I asked myself, ‘what can I do?’” he said. “I sold the dairy because I knew I couldn’t do that.”
Shortly after selling the farm, Castelein was forced to return to his native country for overstaying his tourist’s visa.
He straightened out his paperwork and returned to America, back to Wise County, in 1996.
At about the same time, the county anticipated the opening of an expanded version of a popular box store.
Walmart Supercenter boasted hundreds of new jobs, and one of them was a customer service skater.
Duties of the position included price checks, cashier relief and troubleshooting – tasks all executed atop the eight wheels of roller skates or blades.
“It makes you quicker and more available,” the seasoned skater said. “Back in the day, Walmart had a skater position. They had a lot of skaters back in the day, especially around Christmas time. When I applied for the job, I had to take a skate test in the back alley behind the store.”
Since then, the position has been ousted, but Castelein continues to sport the wheels.
“Nowadays, there aren’t a lot (of skaters) because people complained about how tiring wearing skates all day can be,” he said. “But I like mine.”
He tightens the straps of his roller blades and continues: “They’re the best of their kind. They’re like driving Cadillacs.”
In his years at Walmart, he has rode the “Cadillacs” to the title of customer service manager, a title he still holds.
“In the fall, I’ll get my 15-year badge,” Castelein said. “As customer service manager, I take care of the front end. I manage the cashiers, cart pushers, greeters, customer service desk. I make sure all the cashiers get their lunch and other breaks, and I help with troubleshooting.
“All atop these wheels,” he adds.
But the skates haven’t just wheeled him from an aisle of the store to a cashier desk, or from the store’s stock room to the cart racks in the parking lot.
They once served as his main means of transportation.
“My car was not in good shape, so instead of walking one day, I decided to ride my skates home,” he said. “That ride down Hale Street was an adventure. All the pot holes and cracks and sticks and debris I hadn’t noticed before, I came to know very well that day. Never again.”
In addition to his 40-hour job as customer service manager, Castelein rides another set of wheels as a bus driver for the Decatur Independent School District.
“I get to know all the kids that way,” he said. “I know their moms and dads and grandparents from the store, but I know the kids by driving their bus.”
But he remains faithful to his job as a skater, and he holds on to the mindset that led him there.
During the transition from the familiarity of his homeland to the U.S. and from overalls and tractor to fluorescent orange safety vest and roller blades, Castelein turned to his faith to drive him through the hardship. To this day, the same mentality has continued to propel him through life.
“I knew right off the bat my arm was gone, but I accepted it immediately,” he said. “My dad took it harder than I did. He thought my life was over. But you know, you gotta keep going. You don’t let that one fall keep you down.
“As a Christian, you look at better things ahead. Definitely, no matter what happens, there are better things ahead.”