The changes that have occurred between 1963 and 2013 are too numerous to count, but in Forrest City, one thing has been constant and that is the Airtherm and Mestek, Inc., plant located on North Washington.
This year, Airtherm is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Forrest City facility. The plant manufactures HVAC equipment for commercial use. While it is still commonly called “Airtherm” by local residents, the company was purchased by Mestek, Inc., of Westfield, Mass., in August of 2000. The official name of the facility is Mestek, Inc. Forrest City Division.
On Wednesday, the plant celebrated the milestone, but also recognized a longtime employee who has been with the facility for nearly as long and it has been open.
Clyde Clark, 82, of Forrest City, started at Airtherm in 1963 just after the plant opened. He was surprised on Wednesday by plant manager Bob Andrews and Ann Dye, with human resources, with a plaque honoring his 50 years of service to the company while he also received a perfect attendance plaque. It was the third perfect attendance plaque Clark has received in the last three years. Clark was also awarded a framed letter from Mestek Vice Chairman and COO Stewart Reed, which was presented to him by Jim Monahan, vice president of manufacturing of Mestek.
The letter to Clark reads, in part, “Thank you for your dedicated service to Airtherm and Mestek. Fifty years is a truly remarkable record indeed! And, your attendance record is an inspiration to all of us, a major achievement. Few companies are fortunate enough to have an employee with your record of service, longevity and reliability; and we all want you to know how much we appreciate you, and the high regard we have for you.”
The letter also thanks Clark, a Korean War veteran who served in 1951 and 1952, for his service to his country. Clark received the Korean Presidential Award, the Korean Service Bronze Star, the United Nations Medal, National Defense Service Award and the Army Good Conduct Medal.
During the ceremony held Wednesday, Andrews addressed the workers on the plant floor regarding the 50th anniversary.
“The reason this plant has been here for 50 years is because of the hard work of the people who have worked here,” Andrews said.
“Everyone in Forrest City knows the building,” said Andrews. “It’s kind of an icon here because it’s been here for so long. There is a lot of history and longevity here. Mr. Clark has been a big part of that. He’s been here since nearly the start. He’s seen it all.”
Dye also spoke highly of Clark. “For someone to be 82 and have three years in a row of perfect attendance, that is just impressive,” Dye said. “Most people don’t spend 30 years in one place, so 50 years is unheard of.”
Clark agreed to speak a little about himself and the changes he has seen over the years.
“I started out making $1 an hour when I was first hired,” Clark said. “When the probation period ended, I got a quarter raise. I thought it was mighty nice of them. I didn’t spend any more than $5 a week on gas, so that was good.”
“One thing is that I enjoy working and I enjoy working with the people here,” said Clark. “Another thing is, I see friends retire and they just sit down. I like keeping busy.”
The final line in Clark’s letter from Reed seems to sum up his accomplishments the best. The letter concludes, “Clyde, you are a man we all can sincerely admire; and we are grateful that you chose to work with us for your long and honorable career.”