// Community News

03/07/13 Assistant manager celebrates 50 years

The year was 1963.

President John F. Kennedy was eight months shy of being assassinated on Dealey Plaza, gas lingered around 20 cents a gallon and Paul Oeding was beginning to learn the lumberyard business.

The year is now 2013, and America has its first black president, gas fluctuates between $3 and $4, and Paul Oeding is celebrating his 50-year employment milestone.

Oeding, Zarsky Lumber Co. Inc. assistant manager, marked a half-century Thursday with family, friends and co-workers and said despite the long run, he still plans to stay on board.

"It went by pretty quick," the 70-year-old said, nonchalantly, as if 50 years was a cinch. "I know I've been here a long time, but it doesn't seem like that long."

Oeding joined Zarsky as a 20-year-old from Schulenburg trying to find a steady paying job.

His neighbor worked at Zarsky and told Oeding about an opening.

Oeding secured a job in sales, only to realize his friend was about to do something he should have expected.

"He wound up quitting," Oeding said, holding back a subtle laugh. "I just hung around here."

The job came with a learning curve, especially because Oeding was not well-versed in lumber. Still, Dan Coleman, president emeritus, hired Oeding because of his dedication and willingness to learn.

Coleman was at Thursday's celebration and congratulated his friend for his hard, long run.

"We were both pretty young," Coleman said about when he hired Oeding. "We grew up in the company."

Oeding's big hiring point - being fast on his feet, Coleman said.

Those feet have not failed him. He's still just as fast, darting back and forth throughout the building to manage and ensure everything is running smoothly.

Though Oeding has spent the past 35 years as a manager, he spent the first 15 selling items from the store, which, at that time, was about one-tenth of the size of the present-day store.

Then, the store only sold nails, locks and some paint, but it has now expanded to carry more household wares.

The biggest change he has seen in his time is the hike in prices. A roll of roofing felt once sold for $1.95 a roll, but today it costs about $17 a roll, he said.

Oeding still experiences the daily challenges, and that's what he enjoys most about his line of work.

His latest challenge has been competing against other businesses to keep quality workers in a thriving economy created by the Eagle Ford Shale and the Caterpillar plant.

While he's glad to see the area grow, it makes it difficult to retain employees when competitive salaries are now in the mix.

He plans to continue meeting those challenges and doesn't see retirement too near in the future.

Oeding's wife, Shirley, admires her husband's dedication but hopes for a little more bonding time as the two enter another phase of their lives.

"I remember in 2004, when it snowed all Christmas Eve night and we woke up at 7 a.m. on Christmas Day and there was a winter wonderland," she said.

Oeding snickers and leans back in his seat, knowing the story his wife is about to tell.

"Well, he gets a call about 8:30 that morning to go to work, and he walked out to his vehicle, and it broke my heart because he backed down the driveway and messed up the beautiful, natural pattern of snow," she said, laughing.

Oeding said he would try to take it a little easier, but at his job, the learning never stops.

"I knew if I was going to stay or do any good, I was going to have to learn whatever came about and try to handle it the best I could. I guess I did," he said, smiling.