Some people have that power. 

Arnold McLean had it — that almost otherworldly power to make people feel better on even the darkest of days — and man, did he know how to use it. 

Last week, Arnold succumbed to cancer 30 years after the disease took one of his legs. The loss hit the community hard. 

A Walmart greeter confined to a wheelchair, Arnold for years had made it a point to remember a little something about everybody who passed through the doors of the Auburn store — when you wandered into Arnold’s sphere of influence, you weren’t just another shopper in a herd of many. Arnold made you feel like someone special. 

“Whenever I was having a bad day,” writes a lady named Christine Peterson on a funeral home tribute page, “I knew that when I walked into Walmart to do a chore I disliked, he would make me smile. Whenever I feel bad I think about him happy, making others happy, even when he wasn’t feeling good.” 


“He was so lovely to everyone he ever met,” writes Mikayla Ruby, “and even remembered so much of what was going on in people’s lives.” 

Being greeted by Arnold was a personal experience — all of his greetings were jovial, but no two were the same. 

Arnold McLean greeting shoppers at Walmart at Christmastime in 2015. Sun Journal staff photo

The kids got high fives, that was automatic. Their parents might get a “woot woot!” or a “hey, girlfriend,” or a “how are YOU doing?” depending on their previous relationship with the greeter. 

“This was a man,” offers a fellow named Rob Melanson of Auburn, “that on any bad day I had, made me feel there was no excuse to not appreciate what you have. He was always pleasant even in his massive struggles.” 

And Arnold, originally from North Carolina, DID have struggles. Roughly 30 years ago, doctors found bone cancer in his right leg and they were unable to save the limb. 

They took his leg, but if anything, his confinement to the chair made Arnold’s talent for brightening the days of strangers even stronger somehow. The position of greeter at Walmart, which Arnold wandered into when he first moved to Maine to be closer to his mother, became a perfect way for him to connect with the community, to shine on the people with his nearly incandescent friendliness and good cheer.


“Arnold was such a ray of sunshine,” writes Lisa Burgess of Lewiston. “He brought joy to so many. He would make you smile when you were down and lift your spirits.” 

It is doubtful that any Walmart greeter in all the world has ever attained the level of fame, respect and adoration that Arnold attained. In the so-called Age of Rage, this man was loved universally. 

It was a rare day, his fans say, for Arnold to get through a shift at work without being asked to pose for selfie photos with his admirers.

Alas, on June 20, Arnold, 60, succumbed to a second round of cancer two years after the disease was diagnosed. And when word of his passing began to spread across the community, the reaction was immense. People mourned the loss of such a great man, surely. But they also celebrated the profound effect Arnold had on them, even by playing such a small role in their lives. 

“Although Arnold didn’t know me at all,” Melanson wrote on the Lewiston Rocks Facebook page, “I feel I couldn’t have paid him back enough for the life lessons he gave me — that he never knew he gave! Thank you, Arnold, for being an inspiration and making me see light on any dark day. RIP my friend. You really were love.” 

By Monday, hundreds of such comments — possibly thousands — had been put down for posterity, and not a disagreement among them. Arnold’s power of good cheer is so great even after his passing, he was able to unite hundreds of typically quarrelsome people on social media. 


One might say that Arnold served as a goodwill ambassador to the Lewiston-Auburn area, which is exactly how Lori D’Amico of Lewiston sees it. 

“I don’t know if you realize what a difference you made in our community to so many of us,” she wrote on Facebook. “The world is a better place because YOU were in it and you radiated joy, fun, faith and love to everyone around you.” 

Arnold McLean with some local people who call themselves “Arnold’s homies” in a selfie photo at Walmart in Auburn. Submitted photo

Directly, Arnold leaves behind his “beloved best friend and caregiver” Crystal Whiting and her children. He leaves behind two daughters and two sons-in-law along with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  

Less directly, one wouldn’t be deemed mad for suggesting that the man also leaves behind the thousands of Walmart shoppers whose lives were brightened through exposure to a man whose love of life shone so brightly. 

Darlene Plasse-Young is one of those people. When she talks about Arnold’s passing, she struggles with tears. 

At one time homeless and sleeping in her car, she talks about her encounters with Arnold as therapeutic. Transformative. Life changing. 


“He never felt like a stranger; it was like I knew him all my life,” she says. “No matter what was going on in my life, whether I was sleeping in my car or whatnot, he always wanted to hear about my adventures. Whenever I was feeling bad or depressed about things, Arnold was always right there for me, every time. I’d walk into Walmart and he’d be right there like a king on his throne.” 

Like so many others, Plasse-Young describes Arnold as a one-of-a-kind type of man. She doesn’t know anyone else who could provide such soaring joy so quickly and so effectively. Arnold was so good at his job, Walmart ultimately had him train other greeters at the store.

“It was just the way he talked,” says Plasse-Young, “and the way he bounced around. For a man in the wheelchair, he had more bounce in his step than most people who can walk.” 

While Arnold’s family mourns, they also recognize the level of love that was coming for the man from the community at large. With that in mind, they have planned a celebration of Arnold’s life to be held July 13 at 2 p.m. at Christ Temple Church of God In Christ at 2488 Turner St. in Auburn.  

“All are welcome!” according to the event page. 

By late in the day Monday, online chatter about Arnold’s passing was still lively across social media. New threads were popping up here and there and additional comments about Arnold were passed around. 

Kathy Roa Woodward of Turner summed it up succinctly. 

“Arnold was a very kind person,” she wrote. “There should be more Arnolds in this world.” 

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