LENOX — Three town employees with nearly a century's worth of service were treated to a midday retirement celebration on Wednesday attended by at least 75 colleagues, family members and friends.
Marie "Claudie" Duby is leaving Town Hall after nearly three decades wearing a variety of municipal hats — currently treasurer, assistant town clerk and webmaster.
"It's surprising how fast the years go," she said during a conversation earlier this week. "I want to do something besides work, things I like to do, volunteering."
Two Department of Public Works veterans stepped down this week — Water Department Foreman Richard "Rick" Fuore and cemetery Foreman Raymond Kirby. Fuore began working at the DPW 40 years ago, while Kirby joined 23 years ago.
"They've served this town so well," Town Manager Christopher Ketchen told the crowd at Town Hall. "They've gone above and beyond, and that's something I appreciate." He cited their "institutional knowledge that's been so valuable."
Former DPW Superintendent Jeff Vincent said "people like Claudie, Rick and Ray make Lenox a great place to live — their professionalism and what they've done to keep the town moving forward. ... I can't say enough about their work ethic and what they've contributed over the years."
"You've been fantastic employees and good friends," added Selectboard Chairman Edward Lane. "We've made some good hires, but they're never going to fill the shoes, the experience, the dedication that you all have."
Duby, 68, has been a Lenox Dale resident since she was 6 months old, when her parents emigrated from France in 1948 to join family members already living in town. In 1966, she was part of the last high school graduating class at the former Cameron School.
Having apprenticed as a drafter, Duby worked for GE Ordnance before marrying William Herrick Colvin, who passed away suddenly in 1996, and raising their son William Charles Colvin, a Lenox police officer. She was employed at Lenox National Bank before buying the Lenox Dale package store.
Since December 1986, Duby has worked in Town Hall in a variety of posts, including a 15-year stint as both treasurer and town clerk.
"I loved seeing and waiting on the people, 99.9 percent of them are great," she said.
"When I started, there were no computers and then we got one — it scared me to death," she recalled. But she was a quick study and has been managing the town website.
For the past few weeks, Duby has been training her successor, Andrea Wadsworth, of Lee. Her key advice — "You have to prioritize; if there's a deadline, it can be very hard because you've got a lot of things coming at you at the same time."
Asked what she's most proud of, Duby mentioned her ability "to meet all the requirements in a timely fashion, we haven't been cited for anything, we improved our Moody's [bond] rating, which saves the town money, and that was a big deal because there were times that were tough. Even when the state was in financial difficulties, we never lost our rating."
But she's concerned by the decline in civic participation. "If you don't vote, you really can't complain," Duby said. "You had your chance, even if you thought you were spitting in the wind. Now we're getting special interest groups. If there isn't something on the ballot of particular importance to an individual, they won't come out."
At the DPW headquarters, Fuore, 61, a lifelong resident, was winding up the only job he has ever held. A 1972 graduate of Lenox Memorial High School, he went to work for the town full time in July 1975 after earning a degree in environmental studies from Berkshire Community College.
He began as a laborer in the Water Department and was promoted to foreman 30 years ago. He has been working with his successor, Robert Horn, for the past two months.
Among the biggest changes Fuore has seen is electronic monitoring of the water system — "what the computer age has given us is the ability to do so remotely, even from home."
The quality of the mountain spring town water is high, he saidd, because "we don't put a large volume of chlorine in it, we do treat it and it's very good to start with. It can even meet current drinking-water standards without treatment and we're processing it even more."
"When I first started, there was only one water line for the town, and it's still in service," Fuore said. The 1889 line needs replacing, he added. Customers are also served by a second, newer line.
On the eve of his last day, he acknowledged bittersweet feelings: "I've loved the variety of the job, not doing the same things every day; it's been a very pleasing career."
After 23 years, Ray Kirby, 64, retired from the DPW this week on the day after his birthday. He's a native who graduated from Lenox Memorial High in 1970, earned an environmental studies degree from BCC, and operated his own landscaping business until the town job opened up in the cemetery department.
He recalled "starting out at the bottom, now I'm the oldest one here. I didn't think I'd be able to stay here all these years, but you kind of mold into it and you find a home," he said. "I'm going to miss plowing, mowing, working with the guys. It's been a very good job for me. Now, I want to do my own thing."