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Retirement Only Gets Better with Age

  • Published
  • By by Master Sgt. Nathan Clark
  • 145th Airlift Wing

A legacy fifty-nine years in the making finally came to an end this past week, as Mrs. Jere Firth, the longest working civilian employee in the Department of Defense, finally retired after celebrating her last day on November 30, 2021.

Firth began her career as a civilian technician employee back in the ‘60s, working nearby her husband while he served in the Army on active duty. Eventually, sometime around 1972, Firth and her husband along with their three children moved to Charlotte, where she began working in the 145th Airlift Wing Force Support Squadron as a Personnelist; a career Firth chose to remain in for the next 49 years.

“I liked that better than going around trying all the different jobs,” said Firth. “I think I just got used to it I guess, and nobody was bossy.”

In her role working in the personnel office, Firth spent all those years assisting Airmen with their separations, retirements, benefits, and entitlements; a complicated job in which experience makes all the difference.

“The support staff, they are the true backbone for the base in ensuring that all your personal information is updated and correct,” said Master Sgt. Angelena Bynum another personnel specialist with the Force Support Squadron. “Her (Jere’s) fingers have touched just about everybody's paperwork in 39 years, we’ve all had a personal experience with her.”

In 1985, Firth’s husband passed away due to complications from Agent Orange exposure earlier in his career, at the time he was teaching J.R.O.T.C. at Olympic High School in Charlotte. Meanwhile, Firth’s three children grew up while she continued to work and support them. Her oldest son inevitably joined the Army and went into Special Forces, meanwhile her youngest son and daughter both took on civilian careers. All three children would go on to retire before their mother.

It became clear over the years that no employee was more dedicated to showing up to work than Firth.

"Are you coming in, Jere? Jere, are you here? When I worked out here, that would be our role call,” said Bynum. “In the mornings, if we didn't see her, ‘Sharon, have you heard from Jere? Did she have a doctor's appointment’?”

“I think that we all are going to miss her smiling face,” says Bynum. “I hope Mrs. Jere takes this time she has in her retirement to really enjoy herself. Like the rest of us, we have to still get up at five o’clock to get to work. And I hope she enjoys being able to sleep as long as she wants to and eat lunch when she feels like it.”

Firth was honored for her service with a special retirement ceremony on November 19th, with various important individuals in attendance including the North Carolina Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Todd Hunt and a special video call from the Deputy Director of the Air National Guard, Maj. Gen. Marc H. Sasseville.

For Firth, the pomp and circumstance is immaterial. Seeing the people she worked and cared about over the years, was all the preferred.

Now in her early 90s, Firth can finally take a moment to catch her breath.

“I’ll probably just go home and take care of three dogs, I guess,” explained Firth. “And I don't know, probably nothing. Except right now, I think I'll have to start off with making sure my house gets cleaned up. It hasn't been lately.”

“The thing I would have to say is that I will miss everybody here. Even though I don't work with all of them. But, you know when you see somebody every day you get used to seeing them and you notice when you don’t,” explained Firth.