Family, friends and former coworkers gathered last Friday to celebrate Donna Ridely’s retirement from Flynn Lumber after 44 years. Donna officially retired at the end of April, and her coworkers made sure to hold a proper send-off. The party was hosted by Flynn Lumber and many people came to congratulate Donna and to reminisce.
Donna started at Flynn Lumber in the late 70s and was working under Margaret Flynn, wife of founder, Raymond Flynn. In her speech, Donna called her aunt Margaret a business teacher and a friend. She was hired in after Margaret called her mom and told her there was a job open for Donna.
“Donna was young, but very smart and she was looking for work when she came back to Gladwin,” Margaret said. “I was a little pushy trying to get her to come work here, but she was a wonderful fit and I knew the business was in good hands.”
Donna took over fully as office manager for Flynn Lumber when Margaret retired.
Jerram Dee has been general manager at Flynn Lumber since 2016, and during Friday’s celebration, he said a few kind words to Donna. “The business has continued to be very successful, largely in part to all the dedication and work you have put in.”
Tim Flynn, son of Raymond and Margaret is the current owner of Flynn Lumber and he also shared his appreciation for Donna’s dedication, stating that the business would not be where it is today if not for her.
Many of Donna’s coworkers had stories to share, and each story came from a different time in the history of the business. Gale Bautell worked with Donna for 14 years in the office, starting in 2001. When asked about what moments stood out most, she recalled when she was a new hire.
“When I started, I was learning a lot of new things very quickly and I was afraid to do too much on the computers because I was worried I’d delete something; but it was what Donna said to me that helped me relax. She said, ‘Gale, there is nothing you can do that I can’t fix,’ and that brought me so much relief.”
Bautell also spoke about Donna’s heart for the community and for her friends and family.
“She’s very professional and she loves this community,” Bautell said. “One thing she used to do was she would cut out articles in the newspaper of her coworkers kids and collect them until they would graduate, and then she would give all those collections of articles to them.”
Janelle Thurlow has taken over the office manager position at Flynn Lumber after Donna’s retirement.
“I knew nothing about the construction retail business, other than what JD (Jerram Dee) had taught me while I was his office manager the last few years, when Donna hired me over five years ago,” Thurlow said. “It didn’t take long to catch on, she was very patient and I could tell she had done pretty much everything at Flynn Lumber at one time or another. When I hired in, the plan was to take her place with her retirement coming in the future.”
During her time working with Donna, Thurlow gained a mentor and a friend, not unlike the previous transition between Margaret and Donna.
“We developed a friendship right away and we have a ton of respect for one another,” Thurlow said. “She is all business when she needs to be and a ton of fun when it’s time! I learned so much by watching her and how she handled different situations with such professionalism. She always said we need to keep it clean and proceed with guidelines, not rules.”
Thurlow is enjoying her new role as office manager, and has much more confidence in the position than when she started. She will always remember the lessons Donna taught her in both her professional and personal life. And if things get challenging, she knows that Donna is only a call away.
“The transition to office manager is my dream job and she taught me everything she knows and then some. It’s been a great transition and to know she is a text or phone call away speaks to how amazing she is. After 44 years, how do you just walk away? But she has earned this time and I am so happy that she is able to relax and enjoy the things she loves most!”
During her speech, Donna joked about the joys of retirement where she no longer has the responsibilities of an office manager that kept her busy and organized. She thanked everyone for attending the celebration as well as Margaret, her coworkers and her husband, Mike for their support. She plans to enjoy her retirement with family and friends, and it’s safe to say that her heart for the community will continue to beat.
“The trades in Gladwin County are fascinating when you think of where we started and all those people that built us to where we are today,” Donna said. “And I’m so proud to be a part of that.”