ROCKLAND, Maine — John F. Kennedy was president of the U.S. when Raymond Athearn was hired to work for the public works department in the city.
And more than 50 years later, Athearn is still working for the city with no retirement in sight.
The Rockland City Council commended Athearn at its Monday night meeting, giving him a framed certificate and a plaque for his service.
Councilor Eric Hebert said Athearn has the distinction of being the longest serving city employee in the history of the city of Rockland.
“Whenever I see you out doing you work, you always look happy. I have never heard you grumble. There was no task that you didn’t give your full attention. Fifty years is remarkable,” Hebert said.
Councilor Louise MacLellan-Ruf said she has never gone to the dump when Athearn hasn’t offered his help and shared a smile.
Athearn, 83, said that while he is recognized for 50 years, he actually began working in 1963. He was a probationary employee for a year, but the city lists his official start time as 1964.
Athearn said he has done it all in working for the city: driving trucks, plowing and sanding roads, digging ditches and picking up trash. He works as the attendant at the city’s transfer station.
In all those years, he has only missed work one time — a six-week period in 1999. He was recovering from a hernia operation.
Athearn said he had held various day labor jobs when one day in 1963, a public works supervisor saw him walking on Park Street and asked what he was doing.
“I said I was looking for work. He looked at me and asked if could I start tomorrow, but I asked if Monday would be OK. I got the job,” Athearn recalled.
Athearn has no plans to retire. He said he knows too many people who retired and then fell ill and did not get to enjoy their time off.
“If you’ve got your health, stay as long as you can.” he said.