Photos and caption by Lisa Bicknell
Leon Clark recently retired after 50 years of working. His wife Lorene retired a few years ago but rejoined the work force. The couple are looking forward to new adventures during this phase of their lives.
Story by: Lisa Bicknell
Not many folks can claim that they went to work for more than 50 years and never dreaded a day of it, but Leon Clark does.
During all those years, he made a lot of good friends and will miss them all, but he says it’s time to move on to new adventures.
Such as eating dinner with his family and having time to watch a little television in the evenings.
That may not sound exciting to some folks, but it is a change for Leon, who has worked second—or third—shifts nearly all of his career.
His first full-time job was with Southeast Coal, where he may or may not have fibbed a little about his age when he applied for the job.
At Southeast, Leon drove locomotives and was a repairman. He had plenty of good company on the job because five of his brothers and two nephews worked there at one point.
Leon said he always enjoyed working for Southeast Coal (for 23 years) and that they did a lot for the community.
Recently he and his wife Lorene were digging through some old pay stubs when they found one showing that he had worked 44 hours overtime one week.
Leon and Lorene have been a team for a long time, celebrating 49 years of marriage in June. He remembers that he drove a 68 Chevelle when they began dating.
“It would go fast,” he laughed. “I knowed how to get her.”
At 34, Lorene went back to school (starting college) after years of being a mom at home to daughter Leona and son Matt.
She earned a teaching degree and taught elementary school for 21½ years. Lorene retired for a short while but didn’t particularly care for all that time at home. For the past few years, she’s been working as a para-educator, where she helps students individually with their reading for 30 minutes a day. She stays busy, but at the end of the school day, she can walk away, unlike when she was teaching. Lorene plans to retire (again) in a few more years.
The couple built their first home on Drip Rock, but later sold it and moved to the valley below, to a farm on McKee Rd.
They tore down the old farmhouse that stood on the property and built another home, utilizing some of the logs from the old house. With the leftover logs, they also built a small cabin behind the house. Sometimes it is known as “the poutin’ house.”
After work dwindled at Southeast, Leon began a job with Enersys in Madison County. He worked in maintenance at the factory which builds batteries, dedicating nearly 28 years of his life to that job. He says he “didn’t know anybody” when he started, but he eventually “made a lot of buddies.”
For this reason, Leon says, he never minded going to work at either of his jobs, because he enjoyed seeing and working with his friends.
July 2 was Leon’s last full day at Enersys, so a large group of family gathered at one of Leon’s favorite spots (on the creek bank) for a celebration on the Fourth of July weekend, to celebrate Leon’s new “Independence.”
Actually, the celebrations started well before then, when co-workers started showering him with gifts and cash. Leon says he bought himself a nice rifle with the money they collected, something he will remember them by whenever he looks at it.
On July 12, Leon returned to work for a final few hours, and that’s when his factory friends threw a party for him.
Retirement is still new to him, but so far he’s enjoying it.
He’s helping Lorene finish installing hardwood flooring in their living room, and he’s been enjoying suppers at home. He enjoys four-wheeling, and he’s bought himself a portable saw “to play with.”
He also helps care for his grandsons’ sheep, and he enjoys meals cooked on the creek bank, some of which he prepares himself. Lorene says his specialty is fried chicken, cooked over a fire in a cast iron pan.
With three grandchildren who visit frequently, Laurel, Sterling and Jackson, it’s unlikely the couple will find themselves very idle for a long time.