MASON COUNTY — According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest employee tenure report, the average number of years workers are with their current employer is 4.2, and if so, that would make Phyllis Penn far above average.
Penn will retire from Lakin Hospital on Dec. 31, having served 50 years in the same job position. She was hired as switchboard operator and receptionist in November 1969 at the age of 19, having just graduated high school in the spring.
“My momma, Edith Ross, got me the job,” Penn said. “She worked here 37 years.”
Although Penn could have retired from the state job at the age of 55, she knew she wanted to stay until this year, at the age of 69.
“I always knew I wanted to work here 50 years, and the good Lord let me do it,” she added. “I just love this job and these people, and I didn’t want to leave it.”
The feeling is apparently mutual, as dozens of Lakin employees, past and present, came out to honor Penn recently. A surprise retirement luncheon was held in her honor.
As switchboard operator and receptionist, Penn said she pretty much knew all the happenings at the hospital. Her co-workers laughed, adding the surprise luncheon was the first thing that got past her in the 50 years. Penn can be seen at the hospital as early as 6:30 a.m., even though her job does not officially begin until later.
Penn said she has loved taking the hospital’s phone calls, and always made sure they got to the right person. In all, Penn added she has worked under at least 25 different administrators.
The retiree was presented certificates from West Virginia Governor Jim Justice during the luncheon, by Bill Crouch, West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Cabinet Secretary. The certificates presented to Penn from Gov. Justice include recognition of 50 years of service, a congratulations, a proclamation stating Penn’s achievements, and a certificate of appreciation.
Among other officials attending were Lakin Administrator Danelle Wandling and Chief Operating Officer Matthew Keefer; West Virginia Office of Health Facilities Chief Operating Officer Shevona Lusk and Human Resource Director Ginny Fitzwater; and Mason County Commissioner Rick Handley. Family members also attended, including Penn’s husband Richard, daughter Cheryl Whitt, and granddaughter Tayyler Whitt.
Penn said her husband worked at Lakin for over eight years in maintenance as the water plant operator before going to Mountaineer Plant in New Haven. He retired from there three years ago.
When asked what she is going to do with all her free time, Penn said she loves traveling to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and also loves shopping. In fact, the Penns recently returned from a Tennessee trip in November, where they celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary.
Ohio Valley Publishing staff writer Kayla Hawthorne contributed to this report.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.