Melanie Defore says she never thought of herself as a fixture.
But when 15,104 days go by between starting a job and finishing it, the description just seems to fit.
“She’s seen a lot of history and been a really important part of that history,” Hoosier Energy President and CEO Donna Walker said during Defore’s retirement party.
The party came on March 1, just two days before Defore wrapped up a career of more than 41 years that included serving as executive secretary for Walker and her predecessor, Steve Smith.
Defore began as a file clerk, hired under Shirley Calvert, in October of 1981. She eventually moved into Administrative Services before being named executive secretary in 1986, much to her own surprise.
“I’d only been here four and a half years or so,” she recalled. “I didn’t think that was enough experience, but Hoosier promoted me from within, which not all companies would do.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
And Defore’s retirement party was a testament to that history with many former Hoosier Energy employees in attendance and adding their two cents to the festivities.
“Melanie describes herself as a support person, which is kind of true, but we all knew she was really in charge,” Smith quipped.
Others to chip in included former Hoosier Energy Director of Public Affairs Randy Haymaker, former board member Jerry Jackle and former Senior Vice President of Marketing Mike Rampley, who called Defore “The Herder.”
Superseding all other members of the herd in attendance was Defore’s mother, Judy Cooper.
“I’m grateful for everybody here and my mom, who is normally in Florida this time of year,” Defore said. “It is a proud moment. It’s what you work for.”
When you work for the same company for over 496 months, the moment is well-earned.
“I’m speechless, and I don’t have a speech because I’m a support person – I’m not supposed to have a speech,” Defore said. “I asked if a comedian could attend since I’ve always been behind the scenes, supporting the best I can.
“I’ve had a great opportunity to serve in this position.”
That service has been well-received and was well-appreciated as colleagues past and present signed a framed Hoosier Energy picture with Defore’s name and date of retirement noted on a nameplate at the bottom before partaking in a variety of snack foods and cake.
“Melanie made everybody around her better,” Smith said. “We often refer to the co-op family, and Melanie exemplified that.”
Doing so is how Defore became a fixture.