Woodfin – Woodfin’s Palmer-Wahl Instrument company honors employees for their dedicated years of service. Starting at five years, employees are recognized for their longevity. They are also celebrated upon reaching milestones spanning across a decade or two. This local business formally acknowledged several of its workers at an annual luncheon last week. There was, however, only one employee who received a special commendation for her length of employment as well as highlight her overall age.
The one who took the figurative and literal cake being served at the luncheon in her honor, was Socorro Perez. She has been with the company for 45 years. Having moved from California to North Carolina Socorro joined when the company was bought by Steve and Anne Santangelo, the current owners. That’s quite an accomplishment in itself. Topping that, the company helped celebrate Perez’s 80th with a surprise birthday party!
After the perfect attendance awards were presented to employees, along with the five and 20-year longevity awards, company owner Steve Santangelo presented Perez with her honors, commemorating four decades with the Palmer-Wahl Instrument company. “There is another person who has been here for a long time…she doesn’t need any introduction because you know her quite well. The one and only Socorro Perez, 45 years.” The announcement was quickly followed by roaring applause from the attending employees in the lunchroom. Perez humbly and simply said, “Thank you very much.”
She also was presented a plaque listing the names of employees who made it as far as she had. “Your’s is the only name on it,” said Santangelo. She joked with her colleagues, holding up the plaque, “Nobody. Only me,” her remark receiving chuckles and laughter. Steve told Perez and her family that they are especially unique, as they came when the Santangelos first bought the business. “They decided to move here to continue working with the company. They did that for a better life.” Santangelo told the Tribune that the company counted the years Perez worked in California, when tallying the years with the business.
“She’s one of the hardest working people I know,” said Santangelo, “She keeps busy. She does quality work, great work and she’s a pleasure to be with – very happy, very cheerful. She’s an ideal employee.” Perez’s job focuses on assembling handheld temperature probes.
For her 80th birthday party back on April 11th, employees gathered in the lunchroom huddled with the lights off. Perez, who always prefers eating at her workstation recounts, “I never eat in here, I don’t like it. I eat in my place,” she explained. She was mildly disoriented upon entering the darkened lunchroom, when all of sudden, the lights were switched on. The room, full of her co-workers jubilant and gleefully shouting, ‘happy birthday!’
Asked if she sees retirement in her future, Perez told the Tribune, “I don’t know, probably not…You don’t let me retire,” she joked with Santangelo. Her children have tried to get Perez to retire, but “I love this place…A lot of people do nothing and have Alzheimer’s. Here my brain’s working because I stay busy.”
According to Santangelo, the business started the employee longevity tribute five years ago, when moving the Palmer part of the business to Asheville from Cincinnati, Ohio, the city they were based at.
Perez was not the only employee who came from California. Two future employees, Ino and Jorge Chacon, Perez’s daughter and son-in-law, also trekked to North Carolina, working now for the company. The Chacons received, along with Perez and other workers, recognition for having achieved perfect attendance last year. Asked if it was a scary move leaving LA and coming to Asheville, Perez didn’t hesitate saying, “Oh no, I love it here.”