A Job Well Done

Today my dad announced his retirement. While it won’t make headlines, his career deserves recognition. He deserves recognition. This is a big deal.

My earliest memory of going to visit my dad at work was at a small building with lots of brightly-colored cords plugged into rows of big metal things. What I know now is that it had something to do with talking on the phone. What I knew then is it looked like a lot of fun.

My first memory of visiting my dad at an office where he sat in a cubicle is tightly woven with one of my first memories of playing on a computer. More specifically, playing Monopoly on a computer. You pressed the space bar to roll the dice. It was the 80s, and we certainly didn’t have a computer at home. Again, my dad’s work seemed like a magical, fun place.

The fun didn’t stop there. In the afternoons we would run down to the end of the street to greet my dad on his way home. We would then climb into the back of his pick-up truck and ride to the house. EVERYTHING ABOUT GOING TO WORK WAS AN ADVENTURE.

There were business trips to places I could (sometimes) find on globes and “what did you bring me, daddy?” welcome homes. I remember calling him after the first business trip I took as an adult, and apologizing for the latter. What I couldn’t know as a child is how exhausted you are when you return from a work trip, and how overwhelming it would be to have four littles clamoring for gifts and attention when what you really wanted was a detox from life. But he never complained. At least not to us.

He brought the gifts. He paid the attention.

When I tell people we moved around about every four years because of my dad’s job, they always ask/assume military, and I’m always like, telecommunications (although he was in the military once upon a time too). Whenever someone asked me what my dad did, I would say microwave engineer/project manager/something to do with telecommunications. I didn’t understand specifics. (Sidebar: Was moving around so much difficult at the time? Sure sometimes. Would I change anything about my transient upbringing? No way. So much of who I am and what I love about who I am is a result of that experience. Three words: adaptable, curious, adventurous. Thanks Dad!)

He didn’t go to college, but he’s taught me so much. At times he’s fought for jobs and done whatever he had to do to make sure there was dinner on the table, or presents under the tree. He’s a hard worker, and hasn’t shied away from things outside his realm of expertise. He’s tried new things. And when things didn’t go well, he made it seem like they would eventually and that everything would be alright in the end. And – as it turns out – it was.

So ecstatic to get to celebrate this milestone.

Here is the letter he sent to his colleagues today, shared with his permission and in its entirety. I loved reading it and learning more about him, and hope you will too. I am so incredibly proud of him. And so very grateful he has the opportunity to step out of the rat race and spend his next 100 years on this Earth going and doing and seeing and experiencing life the way he’s inspired me to. My cup runneth over.

After 60 years in the workforce, 47 of which were in telecommunications, I am hanging up my headset and walking into the sunset.  My last day will be Friday, February 27th.  What an amazing road it has been.  I started in the business at the end of the tube era and the beginning of the transistor era.  Anyone else remember NPN and PNP?  How about the theory that holes flow?  I have worked in telegraph, telephone, analog and digital microwave, FM and digital multiplex, fiber optics, cellular, switch engineering and probably a few other disciplines that don’t come to mind right now.  I have slept on the floors of microwave repeater sites when they had frost on the inside walls.  I have watched the sun come up from the top of a 450 foot guyed tower.  I have traversed the Sierra Nevada mountains in a snow cat laying out a path for new microwave systems.  I have engineered and installed communications systems across the US, Europe and as far away as the Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall islands in the South Pacific. What a ride!

I started my telecommunications career in the Telegraph Group with AT&T Long Lines.  From there, I went to a company called Nebraska Consolidated Communications Corporation (N Triple C for short).  N Triple C was the first communications company (other than Ma Bell) to have a nationwide communication system planned.  N Triple C was also the first company purchased by a little startup called MCI.  My original employee number with MCI was 0000067.  I still have my old MCI id badge somewhere.  I helped build MCI’s first microwave system between St. Louis and Dallas.  History buffs might claim that MCI’s first microwave system was between St. Louis and Chicago.  They would be wrong.  The St. Louis – Chicago system was built be Jack Goeken who’s company was named Microwave Communications, Inc.  After that system was up and operational, Bill McGowen bought into the business and he laid the foundation for what was to become MCI.  Jack Goeken parted ways with McGowen and went on to found a company called Airphone.  Maybe some of you remember that company.  Just a little history lesson thrown in.  After MCI, I spent time with the Department of Defense, Brooks Fiber, Gabriel Fiber, McLeodUSA, Xpedius, Time Warner (aka twtelecom) and now Level (3).  No wonder I’m feeling old.

Within  telecommunications, I’ve worked in real estate, outside plant, construction, installation, maintenance, microwave engineering, central office engineering, cellular engineering, switch engineering, circuit design and provisioning, project management, program management, engineering management and other duties as assigned.

There are too many people to thank individually.  Thinking of those pioneers of the communications industry that I had the privilege to work for and with, makes me more melancholy than I already am.  As one of my coworkers here in O’Fallon likes to say:  “I have been blessed and divinely favored.”  I have enjoyed working with all of you.  I respect you as individuals and I am proud to call you my friend.  Thank you for your support and friendship.  I wish nothing but the best for all of you.  Farewell.

To the man who used to sign letters to my school “Mary Anne’s Daddy,” and hands-down the greatest guy I know: I love you. I’m so happy for you. Congratulations. You deserve this. Enjoy it.

My Favoritest Picture Ever

My Favoritest Picture Ever

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One Response to A Job Well Done

  1. Matthew Bargen says:

    Absolutely amazing; both of you. I am so proud. I have actually know dad longer than you have, and I can assure you that he was as equally awesome all those years before. As his favorite (son), I remember in elementary school when he could beat up all the other dads…haha. His retirement is long overdue. I’m so excited to see him start this next chapter in his book of life. Congradulations Lawrence William, or as I know him best, dad. I love you.

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