She was 17 and fresh out of high
school when she walked into the office of Duplex Mill and applied for a summer
job. Suzi Carroll attended her 50th
anniversary class reunion this July, a week after her 50-year employment
celebration at Duplex Mill and Manufacturing Co. in Springfield.
“I was only going to stay two
weeks!” said Carroll, sitting in the same office in the same small yellow
house on Sigler Street she had nervously walked into five decades ago.
Carroll may well be the only member of the Catholic Central High School
Class of 1950 who took a job out of high school and never left it, she said.
“I just showed up every day, and
the time went by. I didn’t mean
to stay this long,” she said.
She might make it sound like an
accident, but Carroll’s path has been deliberate and sure.
She chose not to marry or to bear children, instead adding her love to
the bounty in those families around her.
“I raised all these little dimpled
darlings,” she said with a wave towards her office wall, where scores of
portraits and snapshots documents the life stages of her boss’ children and
her brother’s family.
A poster-size photo of Jon Janson,
first-string offensive tackle for the Washington Redskins, dominates the
“That’s my man,” Carroll said,
grinning wickedly. “Well, he’s
married to my boss’ daughter Martha, but still.
He’s a cutie. Now she was
a swimmer in college … here’s their wedding, and here she is when she was in
Judy and Eric Wise Jr. included
Carroll in their family from the start, she said. It came naturally; Eric’s father, Eric Wise Sr., was 8 when
Carroll came to work for his father, Herbert Wise.
The company employs about 20 people,
building elevators, conveyors and industrial mixers.
“She’s been with our family for
three generations, and raised two of them, more or less,” said Eric Wise Jr.
“I’ve picked these kids up at
Possum Elementary, then Ridgewood School; I’ve gone with them to look at
colleges,” Carroll said.
“And to think I wasn’t going to
stay here more than two weeks. I
thought it was way out in the country; I
had to transfer buses to get here from home!” she said.
Carroll has built a huge circle of
close friends by staying put. She
lost her long-time companion two years ago when local dairy farmer David Kunkle
died of complications of diabetes.
She still mourns his loss, “but I
have a lot of friends,” she said. “We love to go out, and I love sports.
It’s my life. I go to all the Catholic Central games.”
Carroll has learned whatever skills
were needed to face new challenges as they arose, Wise said.
“Over the years, she’s done
switchboard, secretarial, invoicing, just about anything that needed to be
done,” he said.
At times, Carroll was the one to ask
to find important documents or other key materials at the shop. With the advent
of computers, her telephone-answering skills are now her most outstanding
contribution to Duplex Mill, Wise said.
When Carroll retires — which she
has no plans to do — the 116-year-old company will get along, Wise reassured a
“We’ll probably get voice mail. I
know it won’t be the same,” he said.
Carroll reduced her work hours to
part-time recently. Wise said she pretty much sets her own hours.
“After 50 years you get to come and
go whenever you want. How many vacation days does someone who works 50 years
get? However many she wants,” he said, laughing.
Carroll walked into the computer age
without breaking stride, Wise said.
“When I first came here I used a
manual typewriter,” Carroll said, clicking her mouse to call up another
inventory page on the monitor.
“It’s been fun. I don’t know
where the time went,” she said. “It just flew.”