From the Yalta Conference to "Grandpa Barista:" Bob Sargent's amazing life

Julia LeDoux
July 16, 2019 - 3:47 pm
Bob Sargent

Photo courtesy Jim Young

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When Bob Sargent was 19, he served on President Franklin Roosevelt’s honor guard as a member of the Navy during the Yalta Conference.

Seven decades after rubbing shoulders with Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Prime Minister Josef Stalin, the 94-year-old is continuing to have the time of his life by working as a barista at his granddaughter’s coffee shop in Burlington, North Carolina.

“I made a couple of cups of coffee and kinda liked it,” Sargent laughed.

Karry Young and her husband, Jim, opened Salvation Coffee Company  in August of 2018.

“Grandpa is up and at ‘em every day,” said Jim Young. “He’s just so full of life. He’s just a perfect example of your age is a state of mind.”

While at the coffee shop, Sargent makes sure he talks to everybody, Young said. And if being “grandpa barista” isn’t enough, Sargent also does maintenance work at nearby Elon University.

“We have to kind of get on his schedule to get him in here,” laughed Young. “It’s been so much fun. I think his story is so important. We’re running out of people like him.”

Sargent said he didn’t talk much about his World War II experiences while his children were growing up because he was busy raising his family. They didn’t know about his personal connection to Roosevelt until a couple of years ago, he said.

One day when Roosevelt drove by his honor guard at Yalta, he had his driver stop and said something that Sargent remembers to this day:

“Men, I don’t know whether you know it or not, but I was Secretary of the Navy before I was president. The Navy is my favorite military branch.”

With that, Sargent said Roosevelt won the hearts of his honor guard. Roosevelt also told the young sailors that he would have loved to spend the night with them aboard their ship, but “they won’t let me.”

“For years I thought we would’ve had a donnybrook on that ship if he’d came,” said Sargent. “That was the highlight of my naval experience.”

 After the war, he worked for General Motors, retiring from the auto company in 1957. Sargent then served as a minister for 20 years.

The coffee company has an active social media presence and Sargent was initially featured in a photo holding a couple of Macadamia milk cartons before becoming a “barista in training.”

Bob Sargent
Photo courtesy Jim Young

“He’s an inspiration,” Young said of his grandfather-in-law. “Just his motivation, everyone who comes in loves him to death.”

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