Our Decatur facility is preparing to celebrate its 65th birthday – having begun operations in 1955. Back in February, one Decatur employees marked his 50th service anniversary. Denny Limes began working at the plant in 1970 when the facility was a mere 15-years old. He had come from Purity Bakery, a now-closed plant that once produced buns and rolls, where he took a job in maintenance straight out of high school.
Hired initially at Caterpillar to work on a third-shift paint line, Denny recalls the line wasn’t operational when he first reported for duty. So, the supervisor put Denny and his teammates to work sweeping and cleaning the shipping floor and even vast outdoor expanses for a week before the line was ready. Denny smiles now at the memory of having a broom in his hand for 40 hours on his first week as a Caterpillar employee.
Of course, Denny had no idea when he started working at Caterpillar that he’d still be at the same Decatur facility 50 years later, celebrating a milestone that few ever see.
In the days, weeks and years since Denny joined Caterpillar, life happened. He married and raised a son. Denny and his wife, Ingrid, own a home on five acres near the small town where he was born and raised. A stream babbles through his property that backs up to a state park. “In the spring and the summertime, my wife and I stay busy keeping up the place. We’ve got wildlife – deer and turkey live on our property. The animals will just walk right up to our deck.”
Today, Denny drives a truck on the Decatur property, picking up enormous scraper bowls and other massive components that he then loads into the buildings where the iron is assembled into finished products we recognize.
“Anything big that comes in, we move it,” says Denny. “I drive a semi most of the time, unloading trucks that come in and then putting iron back on trailers when it needs to go into the factory. I move iron and equipment before it’s built and after it’s built.”
It’s a job Denny’s had for a long time and one that he enjoys. He also operates the facility’s crane and a Cat® 988 end loader. Denny says a good day is when the weather is nice, and his truck doesn’t need maintenance.
So, what does the future hold for this 50-year veteran? As for now, Denny is content working at Caterpillar every day and maintaining his property when he’s home.
“In the early days, it seemed like one day led to the next, and you’re working every day and taking care of your family. Before you know it, you’re just in the groove, and 50 years have passed pretty quickly. I’m not sure when I’ll retire. They say you’ll know, that you’ll wake up one day and say, ’I’ve had enough.’ That’ll probably happen to me. But you know, I’m proud to be a Caterpillar employee. This place is still here. I like the people I work with, and everyone here is pretty nice. I realize there are ups and downs in the business cycle, but I’m glad I made this choice.”
Caterpillar Decatur celebrated their 65th anniversary with a birthday party, complete with cupcakes for everyone who was working in the facility. They also have plans for a month’s worth of communications to educate and continue building “yellow blood” pride into their talented workforce! Given the restrictions for gathering of groups, they are holding off on any larger event in hopes that later this summer or early fall, they may be able to host a full get-together of the entire Decatur team.
They are going to celebrate this anniversary all year long! Beginning in June, all facility communication vehicles will include pictures and historical information about how the Caterpillar Decatur facility evolved into Caterpillar’s largest manufacturing facility in the United States. Each week the communications will highlight a different decade leading up to 2020. Employees will get to participate in weekly trivia questions with a chance to win prizes.
“Working in Decatur and knowing that for the past 65 years, this facility has been a large part of the overall Caterpillar story is very humbling. This is an amazing milestone for Decatur, and I am proud to be a part of this team,” said facility manager Tina Czerwinski.