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Retiring Orange Man Never Took Sick Day In 62 Years

Brendan Gill (left), president of the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, congratulates Willie Sumlar on his retirement. Sumlar has worked for the county for 62 years.
Brendan Gill (left), president of the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, congratulates Willie Sumlar on his retirement. Sumlar has worked for the county for 62 years. Photo Credit: Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders

Willie Sumlar of Orange retired Friday from his job as a jack-of-all-trades in Essex County’s Department of Public Works, where he has worked since 1957.

During his 62-year stint with the county, Sumlar, 84, saved taxpayers thousands of dollars by recycling old office furniture and equipment. He earned several letters of commendation from supervisors and was widely recognized for going above and beyond in performing the myriad tasks he took on over his long career.

But perhaps even more extraordinary than the sheer length of his career -- which spanned 12 presidential administrations -- is his attendance record, which is, in a word, perfect.

Sumlar, a senior maintenance repairer, has never missed a scheduled day of work -- not a sick day, not a personal day. He had racked up so much time off he was able to gift several days to co-workers suffering from extended illnesses. He was dubbed “Ironman” at a ceremony in 2007, his 50th anniversary working for the county.

“There’s so much that needs to be done," Sumlar told NJ.com in explaining his astounding work ethic.

Sumlar’s workday with the county for decades began at 6 a.m., but he would routinely report to the office (now named for him) by 5. For several years the county wasn’t his only employer -- he also worked for a caterer when his day job shift was complete, typically putting in seven-day weeks between the two.

His job isn’t all Sumlar has committed to over the decades -- he and his wife, Rose, got married just two years after he began working for Essex County. The couple have two sons.

Sumlar is also active in his church, Bethel Baptist in Orange, where he plans to continue on improvement projects during his retirement -- if that word is even in his vocabulary.

“He doesn’t sit down too much, not unless he’s really tired," Rose Sumlar told NJ.com.

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