A Step Saver front page from April 13, 1988 slowly yellows in its frame at our front entrance on Spring Street. It’s hard to believe that it was just over 30 years ago that the small, weekly shopper celebrated its silver anniversary. The presses have been pushing out weekly editions for 55 years, since the first edition of the Step Saver in 1963 (and the Observer in 1975).
That’s why it hit us so hard when we walked in Monday morning without our smiling, Irish receptionist greeting people at the front window. For 37.5 years, until her retirement last Friday, Noreen Thomson was a fixture in our family, greeting people to our building with a soft accent and a smile. She always seemed to bring an air of sophistication and fun to our sometimes serious newsroom.
For many, she was the Observer. It’s no accident that her photo was featured so prominently on the front page of that 1988 Step Saver at our front door. Even then, Noreen was the upbeat personality that softened even the surliest visitor.
Last Friday was her retirement, and we’ve been celebrating it for over a week. We even shut down the presses at noon on June 29 to hold a cook-out that kick-started a week-long celebration of our company’s longest tenured employee.
“It was great,” she told us at our retirement picnic. Of course, she said, not all the years were great (that drew laughter), but how could she enjoy every day for almost 38 years? She was here through a merger of the Step Saver and Observer and worked with 17 different editors and three different publishers. “But most days were great,” she said.
It’s rare these days to find someone committed to one company for almost four decades, but it’s almost commonplace at the Observer where our Southington and Bristol editors—both approaching 15 years at our desks—are still considered “babies” in the building. With Noreen’s departure, the longest continuously employed worker is Bert Vasquenz with almost 30 years in the pressroom. But Marilyn Robillard (customer service) worked in the 70s and 80s, left, and came back. With Noreen’s retirement, visitors will still see Heike Harkey. Don’t worry. She’s been with the company for 23 years.
In fact, every department—from sales and advertising to the press, pre-press, and the newsroom—employs at least one person with more than a dozen years at the job. We’re a small but hard-working family that takes great pride in being one of three printing presses left in Connecticut. It really is a family. That’s why we’ll really miss Noreen.
So, enjoy your retirement, Noreen. You earned it, but don’t be a stranger.
To comment on this story or to contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.