Rose Syracuse, 92, Macy's Longest Serving Employee, Retires After 73 Years
Over the course of their careers, workers rarely stay at one company anymore -- let alone at the same one for more than 70 years. But that was the experience of 92-year old Rose Syracuse, who retired Wednesday from Macy's, Inc., after 73 years of service.
That means that her first year of work was in 1939, while "Gone With The Wind" was still making its first run in movie theaters, as was pointed out by the New York Daily News. Through her whole career, Syracuse (pictured above center) has worked out of Macy's flagship store in Manhattan. Her tenure makes her the longest serving employee in the history of Macy's, which opened in 1858.
Over her more than seven decades as a Macy's employee, Syracuse has handled a number of jobs at the "world's largest department store." Most recently she was working on archival projects for special events like the annual Thanksgiving Day parade. (She's watched it every year of her career.) She began working at Macy's in its Deposit of Accounts department when she was 17-years old.
At her retirement, Syracuse looked back on her career and ascribed her success to one of the most important of career accomplishments -- contentment.
"This was my first job and I didn't go anyplace else. I was happy here," she told the Daily News.
A positive attitude coupled with a diligent ethic has been apparent through her career, her supervisors say.
"Rose is an hourly worker. She clocked in every day. It's just a passion of hers to be here," Robin Hall, senior vice president of the Macy's Parade and Entertainment Group, told Yahoo Shine. "She's not a person who seeks attention. She just loves to work." (Hall is pictured above on the left.)
And so as a send-off for Syracuse, Macy's organized a fete on Wednesday at the Manhattan store, located on 34th Street. Attendees included Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren, who dropped to one knee to deliver Syracuse a bouquet of roses.
Indeed, over her career, Syracuse has seen her fair share of change at Macy's. She began at Macy's after her family moved from Pennsylvania to Brooklyn in the 1930s so her brothers could avoid working in the coal mines. When she started at Macy's, she says, she couldn't afford anything in the store, which then offered wool cardigans for $2.14 and raincoats for $2.98, according to Yahoo.
When she started out, Macy's was what she calls a "one-stop store," where you could buy meat from the butcher shop, drugs from the apothecary and do your banking on the fourth floor. She was working in the store when the famed Christmas movie, "Miracle on 34th Street" was filmed inside. And she remembers a more grueling schedule than the one in today's contract, which offers benefits for employees who work a 35-hour workweek.
"We worked 48 hours a week, including Saturdays, and we earned $14 a week," she told the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. "Everyone worked because everyone needed a job, but we knew things could be better."
Doing anything for more than seven decades and then stopping would be a shock for anyone. But Syracuse, who only retired because of a broken hip sustained six months ago, has in the past embraced optimism during times of transition.
After decades of service in the store's phone and mail order department, the division was eliminated when the Internet made the work obsolete.
But she didn't mind.
"One day you're selling needles and thread, and the next thing you know it's all high-class stuff," she told the Daily News. "Change is so terrific."
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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