JBS retiree recognized for perfect attendance
WORTHINGTON -- Bob Lundergard moved to Worthington as a high school junior after his dad accepted a transfer from Omaha, Neb., to work at the new Armour's plant gearing up to open here in the mid-1960s.
The hours were steady, the work was hard and the pay was good, yet Bob's dad, Robert, gave him a bit of advice -- don't go out to the pork processing facility and apply for a job.
In 1967, a year after he finished high school, Lundergard went against his father's recommendation and was hired by Armour's to work on the loading dock.
"In those days you had to go out every morning (and work) more or less as a fill-in," Lundergard said. "I worked six or seven months like that, then got hired full-time and got my seniority.
"That was a good paying job then -- Armour's was the best paying around," he added. "I had no idea I'd be there for 45 years."
Earlier this month, Lundergard retired from the pork processing facility now known as JBS. In his 45-year career with the plant, he watched it change owners and names a handful of times.
What is perhaps even more impressive than working four and a half decades at one facility is that Lundergard put together a string of 24 consecutive years of perfect attendance, the longest of any employee in the plant.
"I never called in sick -- I never missed a day," he said. "There were probably times I shouldn't have gone to work -- I had pains, but I went anyway.
"She shoved me out the door," he added with a laugh while pointing to his wife of 44 years, Linda.
While his first couple of weeks were spent working at the loading dock, Lundergard eventually moved into roles on the hog kill and hog cut floors, defatted hams on the ham line and eventually transitioned into a job on the picnic line. Most recently he assembled and hauled boxes for the picnics, or pork shoulders.
"I did a lot of different jobs in 45 years," he said.
As time went on and technology improved, the work remained just as challenging. Lundergard said when he started with Armour's, the plant processed about 300 hogs per hour. The pace now, at his retirement, is 1,300 hogs per hour.
In recognition of his years of service, JBS presented him with a winter coat, an engraved plaque, a gold ring with a small ruby, an engraved pocket watch with stand and a certificate of appreciation. He also received a jacket from Local Union 1161, of which he has been a member since 1968, and a blue piggy bank from his family.
The Lundergards raised three daughters in Worthington, Tammy, Barb and Jodi. They now have four grandchildren as well -- Cole, Lindsay, Sebastian and Alexander.
In retirement, Lundergard hopes to spend more time with the grandkids -- maybe take them fishing since they gave him a new fishing pole for his retirement --and devote more of his time to gardening, hunting and watching the Twins and Vikings games on TV. Already, he's taken a part-time job working for his son-in-law, Steve Bents.
Lundergard's wife, Linda, who works as a paraprofessional in the special education program in District 518, is hoping to retire in another year, which would give them more time to travel to the Twin Cities to visit their youngest daughter's family.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.