JACKSON CENTER – Larry Metz, the longest tenured employee in Airstream’s 89 year history, celebrated his retirement Monday afternoon after 56 years with the company.
“When a company is new, everything is a record, right? Everything is a record when you’re a startup,” Airstream President and CEO Bob Wheeler said. “When you get to be 90 years old, it’s tough to make any records. So 56 years is beyond notable; it’s remarkable and just the kind of thing you don’t see in today’s age and may never see again. This record may stand forever.”
Metz officially retired Aug. 12 – exactly 56 years after he joined the manufacturer of travel trailers and touring coaches. He’ll remain with the company on a part-time basis for the next few months and help train his successor.
“It’s a sad moment in my life,” the Sidney resident said about retiring. “I’m going to enjoy my retirement. It’s just that I’m going to miss all the people here at Airstream.”
After graduating from Jackson Center High School in May 1964, Metz joined Airstream as an 18 year old on Aug. 12, 1964. He was drafted into the Army when he was 19 and served 15 months during the Vietnam War, but he spent the rest of his career working at Airstream.
Metz started as a riveter in the undercarriage department then worked numerous jobs including in manufacturing, sales, purchasing and management. For the past 40 years he’s worked as the business-to-business solutions manager.
“He’s a repository of knowledge and knows a lot of what’s happened with products, especially the unique stuff,” Wheeler said. “We can’t really replace it. All we can hope to do is capture what of it we can.”
Metz worked on a number of special projects throughout his time with Airstream including quarantine units for astronauts returning from the moon, funeral coaches, health care units and bloodmobiles. His favorite project was units for KC-10 military cargo planes, which were used by American dignitaries for secure communications and comfort during flights.
During his career, Metz enjoyed poker games with his coworkers and playing practical jokes. Away from work he’s an avid golfer who’s won two club championships, seven senior championships and five Shelby County club championships.
As a retirement present, he received numerous cards, Airstream memorabilia and a membership to Shelby Oaks Golf Club.
“I think anybody that knows Larry knows him to be steady, he’s always upbeat, he’s always friendly, always with a greeting,” Wheeler said. “He just radiates this sense of positivity that is really going to be missed around here.”
During retirement, Metz looks forward to traveling with his wife, Joanie, and playing golf.
The man who also is known as Ozzie never thought about setting any records but is proud of his 56 year career.
“I guess it’s exciting,” Metz said of being Airstream’s longest tenured employee. “I never really gave it much thought. It’s just something that happened. It was nothing that I really tried to accomplish.”
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