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Archive for Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Former co-workers preserve camaraderie at monthly gatherings

Former employees of the Tecumseh DuPont chemical plant eat at King Buffet in Lawrence for their monthly gathering. From left are Charlie Wintermantel, Robert Gentry, Tom Hanenkrat and Paula Hladky.

Former employees of the Tecumseh DuPont chemical plant eat at King Buffet in Lawrence for their monthly gathering. From left are Charlie Wintermantel, Robert Gentry, Tom Hanenkrat and Paula Hladky.

March 20, 2012

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When a group of retired workers from the former DuPont plant in Tecumseh met for their monthly lunch Tuesday in Lawrence, many of them had done some extra digging into their closets.

Several of the 25 retirees who came to King Buffet, 1601 W. 23rd St., wore their bright red DuPont jackets and old caps bearing the company’s logo.

“It’s all antique, vintage clothing that we’re wearing,” said Paula Hladky, of Perry, who worked at the plant for 18 years.

Group members are retired shift workers and supervisors from the cellophane plant who meet once a month in Lawrence. Recently, several of them decided to dress the part as well, said Hladky who sat next to her husband, Willard Epling, who worked at the company for 24 years.

Most of the group members retired in the 1980s when Flexel Inc. took over operation of the plant, said Joe Patterson, a Lawrence resident who wore his red DuPont jacket Tuesday. British manufacturer Innovia Films now operates the plant in Shawnee County.

They recognized the oldest group member in attendance Tuesday, Jim Stokes, 89, of Lawrence, who retired in 1982 after more than 35 years there.

Hladky said most of the clothing group members wore on Tuesday was given to them as recognition for being safe on the job.

“We dug them out,” Hladky said, “to renew our friendships today.”

It brought back memories, but she said group members enjoy the monthly gatherings and they miss co-workers who have since died or can’t make it to them any more.

Charlie Wintermantel, of rural Baldwin City, who worked there 26 years, said his wife panicked last week as she worried she had thrown his red jacket away.

“It was all right,” he said. “She had just cleaned the closet out.”

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