When Neal Smith took up a plumbing apprenticeship with Hohl Plumbing at age 15, he never imagined it would be a lifetime job.
Mr Smith, 71, retired on December 21 last year after 55 years of service to the family owned company, and his work was celebrated with a dinner at the Beaudesert RSL on February 7.
“I had no idea it would be my job for life. I just turned up for work every day and the years went by. I’m not someone who thinks the grass is greener next door, so I just stayed,” Mr Smith said.
Office administrator Debbie Love described Mr Smith an extremely valued employee.
“He’s a hard worker and will put in the hours to get something done. He’d do anything for anyone. He’d grab the milk at the shops and was always kind and thoughtful. You don’t find people like him anymore. We really enjoy his company. He will be missed,” Ms Love said.
Ms Love said he had already returned to the site, keen to keep his hand in on a casual basis.
The three-generation plumbing business was started by Les Hohl in 1946 and is now run by son Bruce and about to be taken over by grandson Tony. It is obviously a great place to work with other employees Bob Downes and Graham Escreet staying for 52 and 50 years as well.
“Being a plumber is always a challenge, but it’s good work and I’ve enjoyed working outside. It’s become easier since the mid 70s with PVC pipes. Before that it was more labour intensive. And I live in a country town with good people,” Mr Smith said.
Mr Smith attended Beaudesert primary school and was a foundation student at the Beaudesert high school, leaving in Year 10 in 1963. His father Aub Smith was a mechanic for Beaudesert Motors.
During his training Mr Smith was twice awarded apprentice of the year, he topped the plumber’s supervisor’s course and was selected to work at the Australian base in Antarctica, which he declined for family reasons.
Credit Manager Phillip Hohl said Mr Smith specialized in quoting and supervising commercial projects, such as shopping centres, schools, hospitals, factories, water treatment plants and multi-residential projects. He attended plumbing conferences in New Zealand, England, Canada, USA, Hong Kong and Germany and even attended a garden party with HM the Queen at Buckingham palace. Mr Hohl and Mr Smith were both born in 1948.
Mr Smith said his retirement plans were still uncertain but included time with his four children, 12 grand children and two great grandchildren, travel and reading.