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A golden hammer rather than a handshake as she heads into retirement

Elmira’s Arlene Esch’s decades of service paid off, as she recently became the first woman in Canada to receive the Estwing Gold Hammer award, presented to those who have worked 50 years or more in the hardware industry.

The longtime employee of the Home Hardware Stores Ltd. head office in St. Jacobs capped the honour by choosing to retire at the golden moment.

“It’s an honour to be awarded that,” said Esch. “It’s something that very few people do. I was able to – my health was good, I liked my work, and I was able to do it. I set that goal for myself. I wasn’t looking for anything. I just thought if I could work for 50 years, I’ll do it.”

Esch worked as the accounts payable manager for Home Hardware at the time of her retirement. Her first day at the company was on Nov. 25, 1968. Esch was initially hired to work on a posting machine into which she entered invoices. From there, she worked her way up to a managerial position over the years.

All of that brought her to the point she could receive the gold hammer. The North American Retail Hardware Association award is presented to commemorate employees who exemplify the gold standard and to recognize their dedication to the companies for which they work.

Home Hardware vice-president of human resources Stewart Gingrich noted Esch’s exceptional work ethic helped her thrive in the company.

“Throughout the years, Arlene has demonstrated that she exudes the qualities of a great leader,” said Gingrich. “Patience, determination and a willingness to put in whatever is needed to ensure departmental achievement and, in turn, company-wide success. We are sincerely grateful for the tremendous contributions that Arlene has made to Home.”

Esch is the fifth employee to receive the gold hammer at Home Hardware Stores Ltd., a company’s whose roots go back to the 1900 conversion of a St. Jacobs blacksmith shop into a hardware store by Henry Gilles.

Esch noted that part of what made her capable of working for so long was genuinely loving what she did, mainly working with people and the sense of community within the company.

“I loved just working with the people. Early on, we used to do a lot of events with the kids around Christmastime – kids’ Christmas parties and things like that,” said Esch. “But just working with the people and the job I did … I really liked the job that I did.”

After passing the milestone, Esch decided it was time to retire from the position.

“One of the ladies I golfed with said ‘So, you’re working 50 years and not a day longer,'” said Esch with a laugh. “Most of the people that are here now… a lot of them weren’t born when I first started there. It was just time. I knew it was time that I get out of there.”

She says she’s got no major post-retirement goals just yet.

“My retirement plans are not to go to work,” said Esch. “I’ll have to retire for a while before I decide what I’m going to do, if I do anything. It was fun while it lasted. But it’s time – you get to a certain point.

“I will certainly enjoy not getting up early,” she laughed.

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