When Alex Garcia started working at Marlette Homes in Hermiston, the Vietnam War was in full swing and Richard Nixon had just been elected president.
Garcia retired Monday after more than 50 years at the manufactured home plant. He started work there on Nov. 7, 1968, at age 21.
He started out installing floors and during the ensuing five decades moved through plumbing, insulation, framing, painting and welding.
“The only thing I haven’t done is shingles,” he said. “I’ve learned just about everything else.”
Most recently he ran the tool crib. His job included keeping track of the facility’s tools, loaning them out and repairing them.
Garcia said he has seen plenty of changes in the industry over the years, down to the very tools used to build the homes.
“We started with a hammer and nails, and now we use air tools,” he said.
Tom Shimp, production manager and Garcia’s supervisor, said Garcia will be “very hard to replace.”
He described Garcia as a “super great guy” with an impressive work ethic and attendance record.
“He’s one of those guys who you don’t have to manage his time, he manages his own time,” Shimp said.
He said Garcia was an important part of the team and will be greatly missed.
During a barbecue at Marlette in Garcia’s honor on Monday, Shimp presented him with a $500 gift card to Ranch & Home and told him that he was welcome to come back and visit at any time.
Members of Garcia’s family, who were also present for the celebration, thanked the company and said they had enjoyed the decades of attending company picnics and other events.
General manager Glen Alessandri said the staff wanted to make sure Garcia’s family was present because he is a “family man.”
He, too, said Garcia would be missed.
“He’s quiet and unassuming — you would never know he had been here 50 years,” Alessandri said.
Christina Mendoza, one of the many employees at the barbecue, said Garcia’s job in the tool crib touched every department and everyone at the Hermiston facility knew Garcia.
“He’s always nice and always puts a smile on my face,” Mendoza said. “He’s just a good guy all around. If you don’t know who he is, you’re not going to make it here.”
Garcia waved off most of the attention at his surprise party, saying there wasn’t much to his longevity there.
“I needed the work, I got a good job and I stuck to it,” he said.