In the halls of LaGrange County REMC, you could almost always hear whistling coming from a back office. Or a wheezing laugh. Or a turn-of-phrase last heard in the 1950s.
But that’s the magic of retired LaGrange County Warehouse Clerk Matt Weimer. He made even the quiet atmosphere of an office into an energetic place of laughter.
Weimer said goodbye to the REMC last month surrounded by his friends, family and colleagues.
Looking back on his time here, he still isn’t sure why he decided to take the job of meter reader nearly 29 years ago.
Given a week to think about it after being offered the position in 1991, Weimer was sure he was going to say no. He couldn’t afford to go from a factory position to one with the cooperative making $6 an hour, especially caring for a wife and three children. But when then meter supervisor, Craig Burgi, called him, something unexpected happened.
“He calls me and goes, ‘Well, you starting Monday?’ And I said, ‘Yep!’” Weimer said with a smile. “To this day, I still don’t know why I said that. It didn’t look like a good decision that day, but it turned out to be a great decision.”
Even though he didn’t make much money those first few years — even going so far as to build skids at night for 25 cents a piece to supplement his income — he knew he was someplace special.
Within a few years, he had been promoted to warehouse clerk and purchasing agent for the cooperative and began his favorite part of the job: meeting with vendors.
“I like the people who come in here. I have a good relationship with all of them. I know their family, their kids, their wives. They’ve all grown up,” Weimer said.
That intimacy that Weimer grew with his colleagues is what set him apart, said Randy Troyer, engineering and technical services manager at the cooperative.
“Matt’s relationship with each of us was not superficial,” Troyer said. “He treated us like family and was genuinely interested in our lives at work as well as at home.”
Those kinds of relationships, and how he formed them, are a piece of why he made the decision to retire this year. He’s a storyteller, a talker. You want a laugh, you go to Matt. But in this day and age of technology, business is changing.
“I think it’s passing me. I want to hang on to who I am. I want to get on the phone and talk to you and know more about you. It’s not how people work anymore,” Weimer lamented. “I know I was one of the lucky ones in the community that got to be here.”
CEO Mark Leu, who’s known Weimer since he was a student in his Sunday school class, will miss the energy Weimer brought to his work.
“I was always impressed with Matt’s ability to relate to anyone and to make a newcomer feel welcome,” Leu said. “Matt brought a spirit of fun at work with him that everyone appreciated, and I will miss his antics in trying to get a rise out of people.”
Those antics are some of Weimer’s favorite memories, whether it was his time working with Meter Technician Gary Grogg (“I used to tease the heck out of him, sing to him all day long. I would have killed me if I would have been him.”) or any of the other employees, a lot of whom he calls close friends. Counting on his fingers, he realized only four employees at the co-op have been there longer than he has.
“It’ll be different. I won’t have the same relationship with the people I’ve had for the last 20 years. I’ve been with them about as long as I’ve been with anybody in my life, you know what I mean? That’s kind of special,” Weimer said. “I’ve always had work. We’ll see how it goes. I know one thing: I can walk back in here and see these idiots.”
Being called an “idiot” from Matt is an endearing moniker, not one made with malice. With a smile on his face, and a bit of a tear in his eye, he explains that he wants his legacy to be one of fun and laughter, something he tried to bring each and every day at the cooperative.
“Don’t take things too serious. As much as anything, just try to have fun and have a good laugh,” Weimer said. “Don’t you like to laugh? A good laugh is like a good sneeze. It feels good. It cleans out the senses.”