PUTNEY -- It's unlikely husband and wife Hurel and Ginny Hale could possibly see any more of each other than they already do. Regardless, they will now have the chance to try it out when they retire from the jobs they've had since the Lyndon B. Johnson presidency.
On May 1, the Hales finished their careers at Soundview Paper Company, where they have worked side by side since 1964, the same year they married. The company threw a retirement party for the high school sweethearts on Tuesday and invited friends, family members and co-workers to congratulate them on 50 years of loyal service.
"You have a can-do attitude. No matter what you were asked to do, you always came through on the task," Chief Operating Officer Karl Meyers told the Hales before getting choked up recalling how they welcomed him to Putney when he started at the location 15 months ago. "It's been the most fun I've had in 15 months in my entire life."
Soundview Paper Company of Elmwood Park, N.J., purchased Putney Paper from APC Paper Holdings in 2013. Hurel told the Reformer Soundview's higher-ups -- such as Meyers and CEO George Wurtz -- have "been like family to us."
The Hales were given commemorative plaques and brand-new watches, though they joked that they will no longer have to worry about the element of time and all its constraints.
Ginny started working at the mill, then the Putney Paper Company, on April 13, 1964, and was joined by her husband in October, about three months after tying the knot. The two have driven down the dirt road to the company's converting plant ever since and on Tuesday had trouble fathoming what it will be like not do that anymore.
"We don't know, because we've never done it," Ginny Hale said with a laugh. "From high school, I started working here and I've never not come down that road.
The Hales will have some time to figure out after they return from visiting family in Tennessee. The two performed numerous jobs at the mill over the years, but Ginny said she often concentrated on the sheeter, a machine that converts paper rolls into tissue paper.
Joining the soon-to-be retirees at Tuesday's party were their daughters, Tanya Nichols and Jennifer Reffi, granddaughter Rylee Nichols and great-grandbaby Addyson Commo. Tanya Nichols said working at the mill runs in the family, as Hurel's parents and Ginny's siblings were all employed there at one point or another. She also said her parents' retirement has been a long time coming and they deserve every second of relaxation they get.
"I'm extremely happy for them because they kept pushing their date further and further back. ‘We'll do it this month,' ‘No, we'll wait three months and do it this month,' ‘We'll wait three months,' and I really thought they'd never leave," she recalled. "Once they got to a certain point, it was more about making the 50 years, you know what I mean?"
Nichols, who also worked at the mill for a while, got her first taste of the place before she was even born. Ginny told the Reformer she was working when she went into labor with her oldest daughter.
Reffi said she, too, is thrilled her parents are finally moving on.
"I'm doing a happy dance. I am so excited that they are going to get up (in the morning) and do exactly what they want to do ... when they want to do it," she said. "It's going to be a challenge, I think, for them but once they get a good, long rest and come back from vacation I think that they're going to figure it out."
Production Manager Brian Gauthier said he has known the Hales for only a-year-and-a-half but greatly admires how they handle their personal and professional lives.
"It's fantastic. I think they have a strong relationship and a great way to communicate," he said after the retirement party. "Communication between them must be the key for them to be able to work all day together and then live at home together."
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.