Immeasurable, Irreplaceable Carter Crowe
When 83-year-old retiree liaison Carter Crowe informed Compensation Services manager John Behl of his resignation, he took great pains to reassure Behl, tongue-in-cheek, that "it isn't because I'm starting a career with another company - I simply want to try retirement again.
"I officially retired from PSO (Public Service Office of Oklahoma) in 1967," Crowe says, "but they asked me to continue on a contract basis as retiree liaison. I've served in that position for 18 years, and on Dec. 31, I'm genuinely, honest-to-God, really retiring."
As an active, 83-years-young man who adds a wry humor to his ever-present helping hand, Carter Crowe has made an immeasurable contribution to his co-workers, company and community.
"I've known Carter since before he retired the first time," says John Herberger, who is due to fill Crow's role as retiree liaison until his own retirement about a year from now. "He's as diligent an employee today as he was then. I only hope I'm half as vital at half his age and can make one-fourth the contribution he has."
Behl continues. "Carter gets up every morning at 4 a.m. and is in the office by 5:30 or 6 a.m. He calls on between 50 and 70 retirees every week, spreading a terrific wealth of knowledge, not only about PSO, but about life in general. Carter is one of those people who will be impossible to replace."
Crowe remembers the exact date--June 27, 1929--he began working for PSO. "It was 56½ years ago," he muses. "I started working summers as a bookkeeper for People's Ice Company, then a subsidiary of PSO. Later I worked in customer service in Tulsa where I was credit manager until I retired the first time."
With a twinkle in his eye, Crowe says, "When they hired me they must have needed a good leg man because I spent a lot of time running around. During my early years with the company I worked on community projects, raising funds for the United Way, the YMCA, the Red Cross and other groups."
Crowe also was involved in athletics and worked on such projects as membership drives for the University of Tulsa Hurricane Club. "When I attended Oklahoma State University, I played football and basketball, and that's where I got my first running-around experience. After I came to PSO, when I wasn't running around after work, coaching or refereeing basketball and football."
"And I'm still running around, all these years later, as retiree liaison," Crowe laughs.
Zula Adams, a PSO cashier who retired in 1950, recalls those early days working with Crowe. "I've known Carter since he was young and blushing," she says. "When he first came to PSO, he worked the counter right next to mine, and we visited back and forth.
"He was a little ornery and I was a little ornery, so we got along fine," Adams continues. "He was a barrel of fun, always teasing and joking with people. Carter just has a gift for getting along with people; he had it then, and he has it now."
Crowe was assistant office manger at PSO's Sixth and Main office in 1965 --- just a year and a half before he was due to retire --- when he was approached about the position of retiree liaison. If he accepted the new job, he would be able to continue his employment with PSO well beyond the age of 65. Crowe decided to think it over, but he already knew one thing for certain: as an energetic and vigorous man, he just didn't feel ready to retire.
"I believe a person ought to be able to work as long as he is healthy and productive," Crowe states emphatically. "Before the Social Security Act of 1937, a 65th birthday was no more significant than any other. Things changed after the Act."
The Social Security law, making benefits available for those 65 and older, created a watershed for many people, and employee retirement at age 65 generally became mandatory throughout the country. Recently, the law was changed, making age 70 the earliest mandatory retirement age.
"The decision about whether or not to retire should be up to the individual," Crowe says. "You know your limits and your job better than anyone else.
"Interestingly enough, though," Crowe observes, "most people I know choose to retire at 65. Some even retire earlier, at age 62 or 63.
"I wouldn't have stayed on after age 65 either, I don't think," he says candidly, "if it would have meant being pinned down to a desk job."
Being pinned down is one limitation Crowe hasn't had to worry about in his job as retiree liaison. As the official contact between the company and 615 retirees and 130 survivors of deceased retirees, Crowe has been "hopping" since 1965.
"I call on each retiree as often as possible," he says, "visit hospitalized employees and retirees, attend golden wedding anniversary parties, birthday parties, funerals and try to remember other special occasions. I also act as emcee at the annual retiree luncheon.
"About the only thing I don't do," he quips, "is attend baby showers. You just don't get a lot of those in my age group.
Ann Hemphill, a 1967 PSO retiree, says Crowe is a real friend to retirees. "He has done more for the sick and elderly than anyone in the company," she says.
Besides remembering the social occasions, Crowe acts as a troubleshooter for PSO's retirees. "When a retiree gets his check late or something happens to his electricity, I'm the one he calls."
"If you call Carter and ask him for anything," says Virginia Clingman, a 1965 retiree, "you can consider it done. Carter is the kindest and most helpful person I know."
If pressed, Crowe will tell you that his secret for a long and productive life is "keeping busy" and "getting out and mingling". Crowe says he tells PSO retirees that as long as they can get up and get out of the house, they should. He takes his own advice and not only gets out of the house, but he also takes himself and his wife, Opal, out of the country.
"We've been to Europe, to the Scandinavian countries and to Hawaii three times. Probably the most enjoyable trip we've taken was to the Orient in 1972."
"But if you can't get out and go," he says, "keep your mind active by reading, listening to music, watching television --- doing something. All too soon, the time may come when you can't."
Crowe says he's been lucky. I've been healthy, maybe because I attend church all the time," he laughs. Crowe is superintendent of Sunday school at St. Paul's Methodist Church, the church he's attended for 25 years. Until a brief hospitalization a month ago, Crowe had 11 years and three months of perfect attendance at Sunday school.
"Except for three hospitalizations, I've never missed a day's work in all of my 56½ years, either," he says proudly.
The testimonies of his co-workers and retiree friends illustrate the rarity of an individual like Carter Crowe. A diligent, dedicated and skilled employee, Crowe's absence will be noticeable, not only in the office, but in the hearts of his friends.
"I'm going to miss everybody, and I'm going to miss this job," Crowe says. "You think of how many days there are in 56½ years, and you can see that I'm bound to miss it.
"But there's a trick to that, too," he says, as he winks. "You just let every day take care of itself."
Story reproduced with permission of Currents: A Publication for the Employees of the Public Service Office of Oklahoma
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