Goshen News, Goshen, IN

March 16, 2014

Johnson Controls' family reunites 8 years after shut-down

By SHERRY VAN ARSDALL
THE GOSHEN NEWS

GOSHEN — Reliving memories.

A reunion of former employees for Johnson Controls met Saturday at Maplecrest Country Club to share their memories and to conduct the annual business meeting of the Johnson Controls Retiree Club.

There were hugs, laughter, handshakes and even tears as former co-workers and management met together, many for the first time in several years.

“I only worked there five years and didn’t think I’d know anybody. I’m surprised who I’ve seen today,” Deb (Cripe) Whitehead said. “It’s nice to see some of the people I used to work with. It was a good place to work.”

Her father, Farrell Cripe, retired from the company after 42 years.

“I was a quality control inspector and it was a very good place to work at back then,” Cripe said. “A lot of people worked there. At one time, I think we had 1,200 employees. I was a group leader and had 23 girls that I set up for every morning. It was on the production line and we made controls for water heaters on RVs.”

The company closed its doors for good in 2006, when most of their operations were consolidated to Juarez, Mexico. The building was located on Monroe Street and has been demolished. Cripe said he treasures a brick that reminds him of the good times he had at Johnson Controls.

Jan Kimlick walked into the room, looking at the crowd of approximately 100 people.

“There’s a lot of people. I don’t know their names but I remember faces,” Kimlick said. “I was there almost 33 years. I was there almost to the end. They closed down at the end of March and I left at the end of January. I was on the archiving committee. We went through old records and determined what needed to be sent to the home office in Milwaukee, Wis. That was a lot of fun and I saw so much history. It was fun to be on the committee.”

She said she couldn’t go in to work on her last day.

“All I would have done was cry all day,” Kimlick said. “When you work with people so long, you become attached to them. My job was scheduling for production in the shop and I worked with people on the floor. It was a good place to work.”

And Lucille Gunn worked at the plant for 25 years.

The 92-year-old said she cut noodles with a knife and was known as the “noodle lady.”

“It was a nice, clean place to work. We had a lot of fun,” Gunn said. “I was there a long time. I don’t know a lot of people (today) and some are gone that I worked with. I had some pretty good friendships.”

Patt Huff invited her friend and former co-worker, Karen Sue Forrest, to the reunion.

The pair have remained friends since the closing of the plant.

“It was so sad. I met some of my lifelong friends there. I will never forget them. I will cherish them,” Huff said, smiling. “I’m excited to be here today. I spent a lot of years there and have a lot of memories. We were there at the tail end and permanently laid-off. They sent our jobs overseas. It became an economical issue but we cared about each other and we were like a family.”