Gary Stevens has announced his plans to retire at the end of this month after 38 years with Besser Company. Gary has quite the job history here, starting as a foundry grinder in our Johnson Street plant in 1977, followed by various other positions including machine grinder, lathe operator, part number stamper, straightening press operator, and machinist. In 1983, Gary was promoted to foreman at our 23 North facility, two years later promoted to Assistant General Manager, and again to Plant Manager in 1993. He was a very well-respected manager, providing very solid, yet fair leadership with the union. In 2004, Gary moved on to the Johnson Street facility when he took on the role of Operations Manager. Four years later, Gary was named Director of Molds, which is the position he is retiring from today.
During his extensive service, some of Gary’s best memories were thanks to the antics of his fellow employees. As the new guy on the foundry midnight shift, Gary was officially initiated into the group during his second week. Grinders typically took turns starting up the furnace at 1:00AM for the day shift. After starting the furnace, they would sit in a cozy reclining chair directly in front of the furnace so that the temperature could be closely monitored. The combination of extreme warmth, the lullaby of a low humming furnace, and an exceptionally comfortable seating arrangement made it all too easy to fall asleep in those early morning hours. As anticipated by his scheming coworkers, Gary nodded off. They had been keeping a close eye on him so that they could perfectly time the slamming of a sledge hammer onto the metal deck that was the floor to Gary’s slumber. Gary leapt up, stunned, to find himself surround by the cheering of his new team (you’ll be relieved to know that this practice is not allowed in our zero tolerance safety policy today!)
Gary was initiated again during his start as a foreman at the 23 North plant. Employee, Stanley Konecki, approached Gary and asked him to come see something important. Gary followed Stanley throughout the entire plant, in and out of every department, back and forth multiple times. One by one, employees stopped to watch poor Gary’s travels around the shop. He was oblivious to the fact that there was nothing important to be seen. Plenty of laughter ensued from the group before Gary realized he just hitched a ride on the “Polish Train.”
If you work closely with Gary, you’ll know that he can tell a story better than most, with his infectious laugh pulling you right in. Some of his best (new) stories come from his travels back and forth to our California and Montreal facilities. From the taco truck, to Spanish soap opera lunch hours, to fancy French cuisine; his travels have been anything but dull. He’s learned enough Spanish and French to get by as well…he found that “hola!” and “Sacrebleu!” could muddle him through most situations. Gary will leave Besser a more cultured man thanks to our diversified teams.
Of course it wasn’t all fun and laughs. Gary was and is an outstanding worker. In his early years at Johnson Street, Gary submitted many suggestions for process improvements and received cash awards for participating in our Suggestion Programs. He successfully negotiated his first labor contract at the 23 North facility and was instrumental in creating a new business for Besser from business plan to operating a profitable plant – Oscoda Engineering (OEM). Gary was an exceptional advisor to our team as well, mentoring and coaching many employees throughout his career. He was a very hard and dedicated worker at every level and will ultimately end his career as one of our most diversified employees. It’s very hard to see a valuable employee like Gary go; however, he leaves us in capable hands.
From everyone at Besser, thank you, Gary, for many years of excellent service that will benefit many generations to come. We wish you a very happy retirement!