After more than 19 years working as a saw operator at Co-Line, Earl James – Co-Line’s oldest employee – retired on Friday, Jan. 15. A party with a large decorated cookie and punch helped send him off on his last day, and many Co-Liners stopped by to give him their best wishes. A few also shared memories of Earl from throughout the years.
Only a handful of people at Co-Line today were here when Earl first began. Bryan De Jong is one of them. He trained Earl on the saw back when he first started in 1996. In wishing Earl a happy retirement, Bryan said, “He’s reliable, works hard, and he’ll definitely be missed. Hopefully his wife will be able to get the same from him at home!”
Bryan has gotten to know Earl pretty well over the years and knows Earl has been the brunt of much light-hearted teasing.
“If you visited with Earl in his area for 15–20 minutes, you’d start to feel sorry for him because it seems like everyone picks on him,” Bryan said. “Stay for an hour, you’ll know why! He can dish it out, too!”
Even Earl himself admits he “probably deserved” most of the jokes, and it’s been a part of his job that he has enjoyed.
Another one of Earl’s co-workers, Roger Van Hal, said Earl was very enjoyable to work with.
“He has a sense of humor that will make you laugh,” Roger said. “He is a very hard worker and could get a lot of work done without making any mistakes. I hope that I can do as well as him when I get to be his age. I will miss visiting with Earl about farming, but I wish him the best in his retirement.”
At the time of Earl’s retirement, Tony Van Wyk was his supervisor. Tony said he’s known Earl pretty much his entire life even though he’s only worked closely with him for the past year.
“Earl is just an all-around great guy,” Tony shared. “He is a smiling face that you can always chat with. He is always at work. I think looking back over the past 10 years, he only ever called in a handful of times. That was for the weather! I think a lot of people could learn from Earl. He is truly a role model for all of us. He is a dedicated worker and a great person to know.”
Eric Brand echoed some of the same sentiments as Bryan, Roger, and Tony.
“Earl has been an outstanding team member over the last 19 years,” Eric said. “If you looked up the definition of dependable, I think you would find Earl. He is always here and has always done his best to feed top-quality saw cut parts to customers and other departments. We value and appreciate all he has done for Co-Line. While we are sad to see him leave, we wish him nothing but the best in retirement!”
According to Earl, the highlight for him from the past 19 years has been working with his co-workers. “They’ve been really great to work with,” Earl said. “Rail’s been a great boss, and I have nothing but good words to say about it.”
Though Earl doesn’t have any definite plans for retirement, he does know one thing: “I won’t be getting up at 4:00 in the morning,” he said with a chuckle.
He also knows it’ll be strange not seeing familiar Co-Line faces each day.
“I’ll miss working around people that I’ve enjoyed working with,” he said.
We wish you all the best, Earl!