Friends and customers gather to honor Merten during her last week with Citizens First National Bank
The beginning of the day Tuesday for Joleen Merten was much like any other day for the past 47 years. She got up, made breakfast for her husband and came to work. But Tuesday was different because she is seeing the end of her tenure at Citizens First National Bank coming quickly.
On Tuesday, Merten's coworkers threw her a going away party. In the lobby of the bank, a cake with the frosting inscription "Congratulations on Your Retirement Joleen Merten after 40 years of service" sat on a table with coffee and punch. Throughout the day co-workers and the customers she has served stopped in to talk to her, possibly for the last time.
"You mean if I retire, I'll have to learn how to golf?" a laughing Merten asked a well wisher. Her son and daughter-in-law Dave and Deb Merten stopped in during lunch hour to visit with her.
While Merten loves her co-workers, she did notice something amiss on her special day.
'That is actually not right," she said, gesturing at the cake. "I've actually been here 47 and a half years."
During the five decades she has worked at the bank she has seen a lot of changes, not the least of which is the computer revolution of the last few years that has completely changed banking. Customer relations will always be the same though, she says.
"I still get attached to the customers," Merten said. "Banking is like service work. It is about what the customer needs and what we can do to get it to them. The customer still comes first."
She said the people are what have kept her coming back all this time.
Now working as a customer service representative, the one who handles the longer term customers, Merten began as a bookkeeper. She quickly worked her way into positions that allowed her to deal more with people.
With a lot of time on her hands coming up, Merten says she has no special plans yet. She made the decision to retire while she and her husband were still in good health and could enjoy spending time with their family.
"I have mixed feeling," she said. "But, it is a decision that I made. I know I am going to miss my co-workers and the customers. This is just the time in your life when you know it is right."