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Knape & Vogt celebrates four 50-year employees

6:11 PM, Mar 19, 2013   |    comments
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  • Knape & Vogt, Grand Rapids. (March 19, 2013)
  • Knape & Vogt, Grand Rapids. (March 19, 2013)
  • Knape & Vogt, Grand Rapids. (March 19, 2013)
  • Knape & Vogt, Grand Rapids. (March 19, 2013)
  • Knape & Vogt, Grand Rapids. (March 19, 2013)
    

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average American changes his or her career between three and seven times in their life. One West Michigan company is defying those statistics, celebrating three 50-year employees this year, as well as another who's entering his 54th year.

Knape & Vogt has been in business in Grand Rapids for 115 years. The company is known for manufacturing and distributing components for the home and office industry. They're also known for being a place you can literally work for your lifetime.

"It's really something that isn't heard of these days," said Andy Marzolf, who is Knape & Vogt's Vice President of Human Resources.

This year, the company is celebrating four of its employees who have each been working there for almost half the time the company has existed.

"We have close to 30 employees currently that have been working here at Knape & Vogt for over 40 years," added Marzolf.

Of the company's 525 employees, Ron Ingersoll is the patriarch.

"This is the only place I've ever worked, to tell you the truth," said the 71-year old Ingersoll, who's started working at Knape & Vogt in 1960. "Like I tell everybody, they haven't kicked me out yet, and they keep sending me that paycheck every week, so I keep coming back."

Ken Vander Horn, who serves as Knape & Vogt's quality manager, started working for the company when he was 20-years-old. He'll be 70 in May.

"Now that I have 50 years, how much farther can I go?" said Vander Horn, whose 50th anniversary with the company was in January.

Tony Schmuker says he has been driving a hi-lo for the company since right after he graduated from high school.

"50 years really never occurred to me," said Schmuker, whose 50th anniversary with the company will be in October. "When you stop and think about it, I ought to be out of here by now."

Thomas Bilski says when he applied for a job at Knape & Vogt 50 years ago, he only planned on working there for a couple years.

"There's probably very few companies anywhere that have employees that have been there that long," said Bilski, who serves as a set-up operator for the company.

Knape & Vogt officials say they don't have a forced retirement age for any of their employees, so it's up to these four workers when they want to retire. Once company employees reach the 50-year milestone, each gets to choose a personal, private parking space in the parking lot.

The big question going forward is will Ron Ingersoll make it to 60 years with the company.

"Maybe I will, and maybe I won't," said Ingersoll jokingly.

"Nobody wants to be a quitter, so we just keep going," added Vander Horn, who was speaking as the proxy for the other three 50-year workers.

After this year, it'll be five years before Knape & Vogt can celebrate its next 50-year employee, and if that happens, it's be the company's first female 50-year employee.

Working half a century at the same company is an impressive accomplishment, but it's nowhere near the Guinness World Record for the longest career at one company. That was set in 2008 by a man named Thomas Stoddard, who started at Speakman Company in Delaware as a mail boy in 1928. He retired 80 years later as a member of the board of directors.

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