McCrabb: He was the company’s first employee. 40 years later, he’s still their rock.

Forty years ago, Donnie Duncan, then 22, walked into a Fairfield machine shop and applied for an open position.

He graduated from Taylor High School in 1974, and while he was a student, he worked second shift in a similar shop. He figured that work experience — and what he gained after high school — and his ethic gave him an advantage over the other candidates.

The company’s three owners interviewed Duncan. A few days later — on Jan. 15, 1979 — he was hired, making him the company’s first employee.

Three Wise Men, those owners.


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On Tuesday, Duncan will mark his 40th year with the company. The West Chester resident has worked there so long the company on Rowe Court in Fairfield has changed names from Quality Punch & Die to Tipco Punch.

He’s also considered somewhat of a dinosaur, a dying breed, someone who has spent an entire career with one company. Wage and salary workers have been with their current employer for an average of 4.6 years, according to an Economic News Release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But one thing has remained consistent at Tipco: The same guy working in a 4-foot-by-8-foot space in the machine shop.

“You might as well put a chain around my legs,” he said.

He stands the entire day, except during his two 15-minute breaks and his 30-minute lunch. Quality work boots and padding on the concrete floor are two of his best friends.

Plant Manager Jim Richards was 12 when Duncan was hired. Despite being 10 years his junior, Richards called Duncan his mentor and, along with his father, the person he learned his work ethic.

“He’s my ‘go-to guy,’” Richards said.

They have worked together for 31 years.

“He’s like my family,” Richards said.

Richards also appreciates Duncan’s versatility that has allowed him to adapt to the ever-changing technology in the workplace. Richards said there isn’t a “better form grinder” within a 500-mile radius.

“He’s the type of guy who can come here, put in his eight hours, stop on the way home, frame up a house, pour the driveway, and go home and build a race car,” Richards said. “He’s just very good with his hands. He’s good at anything.”

In other words, you want him as your neighbor.

Duncan and his wife, Gretchen Amer-Duncan, have discussed his retirement. He has come close to retiring a few times, she said.

“Can’t pull the trigger,” she said. “He always has to be doing something.”

Then she added: “Quite a worker.”

Even when Duncan retires, he probably will work part-time and fill-in during summer vacations at Tipco. And that will give him more time to build houses and pour concrete.

“You got to stay busy,” he said. “You won’t see me sitting on the couch.”

When Duncan was hired, he had “no plan in mind” how long he would work there.

“Just worked out,” he said.

But for 40 years? The newbie is now 62.

“I was 21 last week,” he said with a laugh. “It’s amazing. You get out of high school and you can’t wait to be 21. The next thing you know, you’re 40.”

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