FARIBAULT, Minn. – At a time when most people are well into retirement, a worker at a historic Minnesota company is still going strong. Mary Boudreau, 78, has worked at Faribault Woolen Mills since she was 18 years old.
After six decades, Boudreau still walks the old wooden floors in the Mill in her capacity of Head of Weaving Shop Training. However, Boudreau is a "hands-on" leader. On Wednesday, she was at her usual post in the morning, manning a battery of powered looms, turning out yards of high quality wool fabric.
"I got married and I had kids and I had to work," explained Boudreau, "but I just liked it and I stayed on. 'Course, I like my job. I like what I do and I like the people."
And the people like her, according to Bruce Bildsten, Chief Marketing Officer.
"Mary comes in every day and still is absolutely committed and working hard," said Bildsten. "Mary is a huge inspiration to everybody else. She is beloved and respected because she still does it. She is kind of an authority down in our looming department."
Faribault Woolen Mill was founded in 1865 and, at one time, produced half of the woolen blankets made in the entire country. However, like many American manufacturing operations, the Mill fell on hard times and was shuttered in 2009, putting Mary and hundreds of others out of work.
"I did not have too much to do but take care of my great grandchildren," recalls Boudreau, "but that kept me busy."
The equipment inside the "new" Mill, built in 1892, was about to be sold to Pakistan in 2011, when a group of Minnesota investors stepped in and took over the property. Mary Boudreau rushed back in to help reestablish the company.
Eighty-five men and women now call the Mill their place of employment. The company hopes to add more in the coming months. Faribault Woolen Mills remains the maker of high quality goods, including blankets, scarves and throws.
On Wednesday morning, work at the Mill paused and the entire staff gathered in the retail store at the entrance to the Mill to honor Mary.
"I cannot think of a more remarkable accomplishment than 60 years with a business," Tom Irvine, Mill CEO, told Mary before her co-workers. "Your sense of humor, your input, your friendship to all of us is so important."
"Next year, beginning in January is our 150th anniversary of the Mill," said Bruce Bildsten, Chief Marketing Officer. "We are going to create a hall of fame and you are going to be the inaugural inductee in the Hall of Fame!"
The crowd, including those great grandchildren, erupted in applause. Then came another honor.
"Now, I, John Jasinski, Mayor of the City of Faribault, in recognition of her remarkable contributions, do hereby proclaim Wednesday, September 17, 2014 as 'Mary Boudreau Day'."
Mary wiped a few tears away, sampled the celebration cake, kissed her great grandchildren and then scurried back to the looms, as she does every day.
"Keeps me young," she winked. "Keeps me going. If I were to sit at home, I'd be fat and lazy."
All of the management and workers signed a special photo card of Mary with tributes to their favorite co-worker.