Man retires from first and only job
Dec. 26, 2012 at 6:26 a.m.
A first job is often a chance to get one's feet wet, hone in some skills and prepare for that next rung of the career ladder.
For Mission Valley resident Ronnie Albrecht, however, it stuck.
The man with the smiling eyes on Friday retired from his job as Easley Roofing Co.'s sheet metal superintendent.
With 47 years under his belt, it was the first and only job he ever worked.
Jay Easley hired Albrecht, a hard worker fresh out of Victoria High School, in 1965. At the start he served as a roofing helper, putting in long, hot hours but learning all he could.
When Albrecht earned a certificate at Victoria College, Easley said he expected him to take work at DuPont or Union Carbide. It was the popular move at the time, he said, noting the companies required workers to have high school diplomas but preferred some higher education.
"I asked him what he was going to do after college," Easley said. "He reared back at me and said, 'I'm gonna work right here.' And he must've meant it."
Throughout his nearly five decades with the company, Albrecht said, he worked in every facet possible - he took on roofing and insulation jobs before eventually settling in to sheet metal, a long-term stint that earned him an honorary title.
His family dubbed him a "doctor of sheet metal," daughter Kelley Fulbright said, joking that Albrecht's messy handwriting, befitting of a doctor's, made the title work on multiple levels. Still, it's something he accepted with pleasure, said the man who added "DSM" behind his name when signing for paychecks.
That wasn't the only tribute made to the father of three. The large metal building where he spent his hours doing fabrication work was a dedication in itself.
Across the structure sits a large blue and white sign that reads "The Ronnie Albrecht Building."
That honor came about four years ago, when the new building went up, Albrecht said.
"I knew the boss wanted to name the building, but I didn't know he'd want to stick my name on it," he said. "They surprised me on that."
Albrecht admitted he'd seen his share of change through the years.
The company switched ownership several years ago, for instance, while new technology meant that he completed the same types of projects as in the past, he did them in very different ways.
A computerized metal brake at the front of the shop, for instance, allowed him to bend large sheets of metal into exacting shapes with the push of a button. A nearby machine, one he used years back, allowed him to complete the same task by hand, but required two workers.
He also recalled the days before forklifts, when the staff unloaded metal by hand.
"I don't think I could have lasted this long if we still did that," he said, running a hand through his gray hair. "The younger guys are amazed when I tell them about it."
For Lethie Albrecht, Ronnie's wife of 43 years, half the fun is seeing her husband's handiwork. Among those top projects, she said, is work he did on the weather vane atop the Victoria County Courthouse.
Once finished, he engraved both his name and the company's on the metal piece.
"It's neat to drive around and be able to say, 'Oh, Ronnie did this' or 'Ronnie did that,'" Lethie said. "He just left his work all over this state."
Looking ahead, the recent retiree might spend less time in the shop - although he promised he'd be back to harass his friends - but he said he had no shortage of things to do.
With five granddaughters, family time will come first, he said. There's work to be done at the ranch and home, he said, and his golf game needs to improve.
Travel will also join the mix, and maybe even a cruise, said Albrecht, who admitted he wouldn't quite feel at home on a boat.
"I can't swim," the 66-year-old said with a grin.
Lethie Albrecht said she expected him to spend much of his time outside.
"His favorite thing, besides me, is his tractor," she said.
Regardless of what comes after, Albrecht said he's grateful for his time with the company, the friendships made along the way and the chance to start a new chapter.
"We're one big ol' family here, so I know I'll still see them," he said with a glance around the sheet metal shop. "I'm excited."