At a century-plus and vigorously counting, engineer Milton Garland’s voice is deep, his memory blueprint-clear and his distaste for sauerkraut pungently intact.
Garland is 102 years old. He was honored Thursday as America’s oldest known worker. He’s worked for the same Pennsylvania engineering firm since 1920. He thinks life and work are just about the same thing.
“I don’t think age has anything to do with your desire to work,” Garland told a news conference at the National Press Club. Garland supervised the installation of the building’s refrigeration equipment in the late 1920s.
“I love the work I am doing,” he said, leaning forward in his vested, dark pinstripe suit. “My advice is to go into something and stay with it until you like it. You can’t like it until you obtain expertise in that work. And once you are an expert, it’s a pleasure.”
“And once you like what you do, you don’t like to quit doing it,” Garland said.
Garland, who now works about 20 hours a week, is an expert in what he does. He holds 40 patents, mostly involving innovations in refrigeration technology. He helped perfect the production of synthetic rubber during World War II.
Where would he be if he retired 37 years ago, at age 65?
The answer comes without hesitation.
“I’d be in my grave,” Garland declares.
At 102, Garland is not only not in his grave, he’s the new symbol of older workers across the country. He was chosen for the role by an organization called Green Thumb, which champions older workers. The qualifications were simple. Work at least 20 hours a week and have the earliest birth date Green Thumb could find.
At the news conference, Garland had no problem fielding questions.
Does he have a special diet?
“I eat anything but sauerkraut,” he replied with heavy emphasis.
He stays away from most desserts, believes young people should listen to others, and never worries.
“I don’t worry about anything,” Garland said. “Worry never solved any problem. If the problem is there, you’ll find the answer, you just have to keep working on it.”
He was asked for advice on living a long life but did not provide it, saying that living a productive life is more important and implying that one might lead to the other.
“And if you want to live a productive life you have got to make up your mind to do whatever you’re doing correctly,” Garland said.
Milton W. Garland was born in Harrisburg, Pa. on August 23, 1895. He graduated from high school in 1915, interrupted his education to serve in the Navy in World War I, and joined the Frick Co. of Waynesboro, Pa. in 1920, rising to vice president for education.
Garland has worked for the company for 78 years. His current duties: Coordinating international patents and giving training classes. There was another class coming up first thing this morning.
But even for Garland there is more to life than work. He was accompanied to the news conference by his wife, Alice. Sponsors said he has two children, seven grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandson.
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