NEWARK OH April 17 2011– For more than three decades, employees walking in and out of Holophane have been greeted by the smiling face of Ernest “Boonie” Ankrum.
A security guard at the lighting systems company, Ankrum guards the entrance of Holophane’s Newark plant and opens the gates for trucks going in and out of the facility.
But Thursday is expected to be Ankrum’s last day in the guardhouse.
After Holophane announced it was replacing its guards with an automated gate system, Ankrum decided it was time to retire –for the second time.
Ankrum, 95, started at Holophane in 1978, two years after he retired from a 28-year career as a truck driver.
“It was something to kill time,” he said with a smile. “I just never felt like going home and sitting in a rocking chair.”
A lifelong Licking County resident, Ankrum got his first job at age 12 at his brother-in-law’s dairy.
From there, he worked for several companies and spent nine years at Owens Corning before being hired as a truck driver at B&L Motor Freight.
When Ankrum retired from B&L in 1976, he knew he wasn’t ready to stop working. So he took a friend’s advice and applied for a job at Pinkerton Security, which became Securitas Security Services.
After working as a guard at a hospital and several businesses, Ankrum took a job at Holophane, where he said he found a home away from home.
“I probably wouldn’t have stayed with it so long if I didn’t come (to Holophane),” he said. “You are just part of a family here.”
In his early years at Holophane, Ankrum worked five days a week and made rounds several times during his shift. But in 2008, he cut back to two 12-hour shifts a week and now spends most of his time in the guardhouse.
Throughout the years, Ankrum has gotten to know a lot about the company and the people who work there, said Bob Pierce, receiving group leader.
“Pretty much everything goes through (the guard house) and he’s the guy who takes care of that,” he said. “Everyone knows him, and he’s always smiling and talking to people.”
Ankrum said he probably would have stayed at Holophane until his health kept him from working. But when he found out Holophane was changing its gate system, he decided it was a good time to retire.
“I hate to leave, but it’s a good time for me to go,” he said. “I think I’ll finally retire. I’ve worked a lot of jobs.”
Although he’ll be retired, Ankrum plans to keep busy. He wants to work in his garden at his St. Louisville home and spend time with his girlfriend, three children and many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.
He said he rarely feels his age.
“I’ve always felt good,” he said. “I think keeping busy has a lot to do with it.”
Pierce said Holophane employees are amazed by Ankrum’s stamina and positive attitude.
“He’s still mowing the grass and playing golf,” he said. “I don’t know many guys who do that at 70.”
Ankrum’s co-workers organized a party on April 5 to celebrate his 95th birthday and his retirement. He was given a Holophane light to put in his yard and dozens of good will wishes.
“He’s like a permanent fixture here. Not having someone sitting in the guard house is going to be very unusual,” he said. “Everyone is going to miss him.”
Ankrum said he’ll leave Holophane with lots of memories and good friends.
“I’ve always liked it here, it was a good way to spend my time,” he said. “I would say it was just like one big family.”