Oldest Worker Award Sally Gordon Age 101
Sally Gordon Age 101 Wins Oldest Worker Award
At the age of 101, Sally Gordon won America's Outstanding Oldest Worker Award for 2010, at a ceremony in Lincoln, Nebraska. She was honored at the State Capitol as America's "Outstanding Oldest Worker" by Experience Works, a non-profit group that helps older workers find jobs and new careers.
Footnote: The Nebraska Capitol building had not even been built yet when Sally was born in 1909.
Sally Gordon has been in the work force for 84 years. For the last 26 years, she has been employed at the same job - Assistant Sergeant-at-Arms, or "red coat" for the state of Nebraska, working in the Nebraska Legislature while it is in session.
She became the State Capitol's first female assistant sergeant-at-arms – referred to as a "red coat" because of their bright red suit coats – at age 75. The red coats deliver written messages to senators from lobbyists during floor debate and generally maintain order during sessions and committee hearings.
During sessions that last from four to six months, the red coats work until the hearings and debates end, sometimes into the night. During recent sessions however, Sally was allowed to leave at 5 p.m. so she wasn't walking home after dark.
At work, Sally assists with the day-to-day operations of the Nebraska Legislature when it is in session. In her previous job, she was a secretary for three Nebraska governors as well as a model.
Yes, Miracles Happen Every Day but Sally Gordon is the Real Miracle
"I used to be a model," Sally said. "Now I feel like a model T." Sally decided to become a model at the age of 56, and lost 30 pounds to get the job at the old Hovland-Swanson store in Lincoln. She didn't quit modeling until four years ago at the age of 97.
Sally Gordon has a Phyllis Diller laugh that rises and explodes into a high-pitched guffaw. She eats her food very slowly with chopsticks in order to stay slim. And she walks everywhere, typically wearing an elegant, wide-brimmed hat that shades her from the sun.
Her constantly positive attitude, her disciplined diet and her active lifestyle all help explain why she is still working at the age of 101. Sally says she doesn't understand people who sit around waiting to die. In fact, to stay active, she passes up offers of rides on her walks to and from the grocery store and pharmacy.
Now that remarkable career has received national recognition. It’s not her first award either. In 2006, Sally had been named the state of Nebraska's outstanding worker.
Sally received this new national honor with wonderment and joy. "It's a good life. I can't believe all the things that have happened to me," she said. "It kind of puts me in awe."
Those things include working for three Nebraska governors and meeting President Lyndon B. Johnson, Senator Robert F. Kennedy and actors, Charlton Heston and Shirley MacLaine, and also appearing in People magazine herself.
She raised four children with her late husband, Merle. Now, she has seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Sally says she has no plans to retire and advises young people “to try to learn new techniques, listen and be kind to co-workers." Now that's the voice of experience!
"Life is very precious. You have to use every moment," she said.
An official with Experience Works said that Sally will be a great role model for older workers. "She remains very active and welcomes new challenges – on and off the job. We hope her story will inspire older individuals everywhere to stay active," said the executive director of program operations.
The organization also honored 104-year-old Emilio Navarro in Ponce, Puerto Rico, last week as its male outstanding worker for 2010. The last surviving member of the Negro American baseball league, he still works 30 hours a week as comptroller of a company he founded in 1952.
It's the second time a Nebraskan has won the outstanding senior worker award. Mildred Heath, now 102, claimed the honor in 2008. Heath recently had to stop working as social news reporter for her hometown paper in Overton, Nebraska when she fell and broke her wrist.
Sally intends to keep working as long as she is able. And now she has a new job - being a role model for older workers. "This represents America. It still hasn't hit me," she said, launching one of those high-pitched laughs as she talks about possibly meeting Jay Leno or the president. "It's all I can dream of. I hope I can live up to it."
You have already lived up to it, Sally, God bless.
Important Footnote: Sally Gordon finally retired in April, 2011 at the age of 102. She said she 'wanted to retire while she was still young.' She passed away on Valentine's Day of 2012 six weeks before her 103rd birthday.
© Copyright BJ Rakow 2011. All rights reserved. Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So." Enlightening information about interviewing, networking, writing resumes and cover letters and negotiating. But fun to read.
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