Zimmerman retires from lifetime career after 52 years

After 52 years with NCI, Dave Zimmerman of Monticello decided to finally retire. She worked his entire career in shipping department, and enjoyed getting to know so many people. NCI held a small retirement gathering and surprised Zimmerman with his family. Seated in front are Dorthy and Dave Zimmerna. Standing in back are grandson Ben Bollwitt and daughter Wendy Bollwitt. (Photo submitted)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Dave Zimmerman of Monticello may have broken a record in terms of employment. As of the new year, Zimmerman is officially retired from NCI Building Systems after 52 years (and 11 months). (But who’s counting?)

     “I’m still adjusting to it,” Zimmerman laughed.

     While he’s in his early 70s, Zimmerman said he knew he wanted to retire while he could still enjoy his hobbies and interests. But he didn’t want to retire too early that he found himself looking for something to occupy his time.

     His wife, Dorthy, said retirement is something Zimmerman has been thinking about for the past five years or so. Zimmerman said he’s been seriously considering it since October. He said he wanted to remain busy up to his retirement.

     “I was ready,” he said. “I didn’t want to leave and then get antsy. I wanted to leave while I was still healthy.”

     Zimmerman started his employment with NCI on Feb. 4, 1966.

     “It was Cuckler then,” he said.

     At the time, Zimmerman was living and working on his family’s farm on Old Cass Road in Anamosa. He said he needed a transition after coming off the farm.

     “I was looking for work.”

     So, Zimmerman inquired about a job at Cuckler, hearing they might be hiring.

     “The first time I went in I was told they weren’t hiring,” he said. Then, he was sent to Ray Bader in the shipping department. There was an opening there, and that is exactly where Zimmerman remained upon retirement.

     ‘”Everything I did was related through shipping,” he explained.

     When he first started in the wintertime, Zimmerman said work was a bit slow in the construction season.

     “But I stuck it out,” he said.

     He worked for a bit in the shipping yard, but was transported back to shipping, preferring to work indoors versus out in the open.

     Zimmerman ended his tenure working on the dock with freight shipments coming in and out. He said he got to know so many of the carriers on a personal level after all these years.

     “I absolutely enjoyed the people,” he said. “They’ve been the best, otherwise I wouldn’t have stayed this long. It’s the people that really kept me there.”

     In his time at NCI, Zimmerman saw the business change names several times (Cuckler Steel Buildings, Star Building Systems, and NCI). He also worked for seven different plant managers.

     He always worked on first shift, basically 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. When he started working there, first shift was 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Zimmerman had to work Saturday mornings until noon. He was paid $1.25 an hour.

     “It was a good wage at the time,” he said.

     After some time at NCI, Zimmerman admitted he looked into pursuing other careers such as selling insurance. No matter what he landed on, he kept coming back to remaining at NCI.

     “The grass is not always greener on the other side,” said Zimmerman.

     He said he never planned on remaining at NCI all these years. “It just happened,” he said.

     Zimmerman said in the ‘80s during the recession, he was glad he had a job.

     Over the years, he’s seen production change with the times.

     “We used to have a huge production line and stock the inventory,” recalled Zimmerman. “Now, things are customized. Each building is different, so we’re not sitting on inventory waiting for shipping.”

     New and different product lines were also brought in through the years with different companies taking ownership.

     “NCI brought in new product lines and people had to learn things they hadn’t done before,” he said of the positive change.

     The physical aspect of the plant and property also changed in time, with more buildings added to the NCI facility.

     “There were very few buildings when I started,” Zimmerman said. When Rear Siegler took over the plant in the ‘70s, more buildings were constructed on site to add to operations.

     “It was a major undertaking,” Zimmerman said.

     The one thing Zimmerman will miss the most is the people.

     “I had a great foreman and I liked dealing with people,” he said. “I’m people oriented; I like talking to people, and I built up quite a rapport.”

     Zimmerman said there was no other job he rather have the past 52 years than working in shipping at NCI.

     “I was basically my own boss and liked what I did,” he said.

     In retirement, Zimmerman said he’d have to find something to remain active, especially in the winter. During the spring and summer, he already has plans to spend time at his second home, golfing at Fawn Creek Country Club.

     NCI held a retirement gathering for Zimmerman and the shipping department in early December. He was surprised when his wife and family showed up for the occasion.

     A public retirement party was then held on Dec. 29. Zimmerman said it was the 190 guests who really made it a celebration.



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