The Journal Gazette
Sunday, July 19, 2020 1:00 am

Old GE site brings fond memories to employee

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

Beth Clauser can't imagine sitting behind a desk for eight hours a day.

In the 1970s, when she was a New Haven High School junior, Clauser opted to attend classes in the mornings and spend her afternoons and evenings working for Aramark, a food services contractor.

Clauser was assigned to serve supper to General Electric second-shift workers in the company's cafeteria in Building 26.

If all goes according to plan, Clauser will return to Building 26 in about two years when her current employer, Do it Best, moves its headquarters to Electric Works. She plans to retire from the place she started.

The 63-year-old, who works in the hardware cooperative's mailroom, said the homecoming of sorts creates a perfect bookend to her career.

“I'm so excited,” she said during a phone interview. “I'm just so glad that they're doing this.”

Clauser's ties to the former GE campus stretch back even further than her personal experience.

“My mom had worked there during the (Second World) War” making silk parachutes for U.S. troops, she said.

Randy Rusk, Do it Best's communications director, said Clauser's story is unique – but not necessarily unusual.

“Our team's roots run very deep in Fort Wayne and at Electric Works,” he said.

Building 26 was the first big building erected on the campus, according to a 1917 newspaper article. The materials necessary to construct Building 26 – including brick, stone, gravel, cement and steel – weighed a staggering 35,000 tons, GE officials revealed in construction plans filed at the time. Organizers expected 10,000 people to attend the building's dedication.

Clauser is eager for developers RTM Ventures to close on the $275 million Electric Works deal and finish the project before she's ready to retire.

“They've got to get this going,” she said. “When we saw the pictures of the plan, I was so excited.”

Sign up for our daily headlines newsletter

Top headlines are sent daily