Three employees at the Sporlan Division of Parker Hannifin recently celebrated working for the company for half a century each; Aurelia Krause, Isabella “Isy” Strubberg and Larry Maune.
The ladies represent the first two women to reach the milestone, something only about three other men have achieved.
“These employees are awesome and dedicated,” said Angie Aholt, the human resources representative at Sporlan.
Despite the trio being different in many ways, they all agreed why they came to work for Sporlan.
“It was a very good place to work, very hard to get a job,” Krause said, noting that you couldn’t just walk in and get a job.
“It was the best place in town to work. They always paid well, always treated us well, we didn’t have to travel — it wasn’t an easy place to get on,” Strubberg said. “But when you got hired at Sporlan years ago, everyone in town knew it.”
Sporlan has conducted manufacturing operations in Washington since the late 1930s. It has been in business since 1934 when the company was founded by Herman Spoehrer and Harry Lange.
Sporlan is a leading supplier of refrigeration and air-conditioning components, controls and systems. In addition to the company’s headquarters, Sporlan has seven manufacturing locations with more than 1,000 employees and employs 40 sales engineers in North America.
Washington is the home for four manufacturing plants, a distribution operation and the company’s international headquarters. Built in 1994, the headquarters facility has a modern engineering design and testing laboratory.
Sporlan and its sister company in Washington, Jefferson Products, became a division of Parker’s Climate & Industrial Controls Group in 2004.
Krause, 68, began her career with Sporlan Feb. 13, 1962, and currently works at Plant 2. She works with the elements in the paint line.
“The process has improved very much,” she said. “Now, we have an automatic paint line and we just tape the elements so the paint doesn’t get inside.”
Before, it was all done by hand.
One big change Krause remembers is that when he first began, women wore skirts and blouses, as well as an apron.
“Mine were startched to a T,” she said.
Krause is the first woman to reach the 50-year milestone.
One thing Krause said she enjoys about her job is that there is a high retention rate. She’s worked with one of her current co-workers for about 37 years.
“A lot of people I knew before they got married. Now, they’re married and they have children — and their children have children,” she said. “Some people I work with weren’t even born when I started working here.”
After Krause married her late husband, Kenneth Krause, in 1967, she thought she might quit Sporlan and become a homemaker, but instead found she wanted to continue working. She still remembers purchasing her first car with money she earned — a 1956 Chevy that she bought from Modern Auto for $500.
“I was never so proud to have money to buy that car,” she said.
Krause said she’s dedicated to her job and likes to help create a quality product.
“You just put your best foot forward. I always try to do my best. I want to put out a good product because when I buy something I want to buy a good product too,” she said.
Krause said that after 50 years, she feels like those working at Sporlan are family.
“I don’t want to leave yet. Maybe I’ll leave when they name a valve after me,” she said, noting that some people call her “Raley.”
Krause said Sporlan has been a good fit for her life. Through the years, she said Sporlan has shown appreciation to employees by keeping them informed and rewarding them for a job well done.
Employees attend a monthly plant meeting, a quarterly business update and a business-wide update. Sporlan also recognizes employees with service awards and awards for perfect attendance.
“I’m very proud to have a job and work at such a great place,” she said.
Krause grew up in Krakow. She and her husband had three children: Kurt, Kevin and KrisAnne and have four grandchildren.
In her spare time, Krause enjoys line dancing, shopping and spending time with her grandchildren.
Isabella “Isy” Strubberg
Though she is originally from Rhineland, Strubberg, 68, has lived most of her life in Washington. She attended St. Francis Borgia Grade School and High School. She graduated in 1961 and began her career at Sporlan April 30, 1962.
When she first started, Strubberg worked on the g-valve line. Then, she went to the bulb brazing department until that department was moved to Owensville.
Next, she went to element braising. Strubberg is now in charge of the brazing department and the paint line and serves as a department lead.
During the brazing process, copper is braised to steel bulbs; a joint is created between two metal surfaces by fusing a layer of solder between them.
Strubberg also is responsible for filling out papers, making sure work orders are lined up, rotating people in the departments and has other duties. She supervises 16 employees, including Krause.
One big change in her department, Strubberg said, is that the factory has gone from six brazing tables to two rotary wheels then to one large wheel.
Six to nine people work on the wheel and produce between 810-1,200 pieces per hour, depending on the number of orders. Soon, there will be four auto brazers, which produce about 321 pieces per hour and adds up to more than 1,200 per hour.
“I’ve always enjoyed being a brazer,” Strubberg said, noting that brazers have to be certified. “It’s a skill.”
Another change is that there used to be batching of elements. Now, production is based on customer demand.
“What we’re brazing back there today, two days later they’re using them on the assembly lines down here. Before we had dry rooms full of elements and now we just have a small room in the back,” she said.
The method is called “just in time,” because the pieces don’t have to be warehoused, inventory and storage costs have gone down.
The company also implemented A-3 projects, which provides employees an opportunity to give input on how to improve a process which, in turn, opens space for a new business to come in or reduces cost or time spent on a task.
Strubberg worked with two other ladies on an A-3 project that took 1,528 square feet and reduced it to about 432 square feet by making a U-shaped brazing cell. The area was reduced by about 76 percent.
Strubberg said she is proud to be the second woman to reach the 50-year milestone at Sporlan.
“I’m proud; I love what I do,” she said. “That’s my baby back there.”
“She takes care of the people back there like they’re her family,” Aholt said.
Strubberg said she never thought she would be at Sporlan for 50 years.
“It gets in your blood and you just work around everything to make it work,” she said. She has no plans to retire.
Strubberg married Gilbert “Gil” Strubberg Oct. 5, 1963. The couple has two daughters, Sharon Terschluse and Suzanne Strubberg.
When she is not working, she enjoys boating at Lake Norfolk in Arkansas, trout fishing and visiting family.
Though the ladies had to try more than once to get hired, Maune, 68, kind of fell into the job.
He had just come home from his freshman year at the University of Missouri-Columbia and was asked to come work over the summer by a friend’s mom.
“I went to fill out an application and they put me to work,” he said laughing.
Maune, who turns 68 June 8, began his career at Sporlan June 2, 1962. He has been on second shift since 1989. He serves as the lead in the punch press, lathes, furnace and charging departments.
Maune grew up in Washington and graduated from St. Francis Borgia High School in 1961.
He served in the National Guard from 1964-70. He married his wife, Sally Points, in 1969. The couple has four daughters: Cindy, Missy, Mindy and Mandy; and four grandchildren.
Maune worked in the furnace department for eight years before transferring to shipping. In 1974 the shipping department moved to Plant 2. Later, he became the lead of the second shift. He now supervises about 14 people.
“I never had any thought that I’d be here this long,” he said. “Time goes by and you just keep going. It was the best job when I started, without a doubt, and it’s probably still the best job in town.”
Maune said his job allowed him to raise his family in a good town and that he has never disliked his job.
Like the ladies, Maune said he’s seen a lot of changes at Sporlan. One, he said, is switching to hourly pay and getting rid of monthly bonuses. A job bidding system now allows workers to bid for jobs they want.
Maune is part of a high-performance team, designed to get employees involved in making improvements in their departments.
“It gives employees the power to delve into projects that they see on a daily basis that could use improvement,” he said. “You get to make decisions and have a chance to improve your own work area.”
The team has helped replace an old group of valves in chargers with more modern solenoid valves, which function more consistently for a longer period of time, Maune said, and eliminates replacing valves on the piece of equipment.
Maune said he hasn’t made plans to retire yet.
In his spare time, he enjoys playing blackjack and watching baseball — often in the same day, he said.
Sporlan has had a party for each of the three employees and has several other surprises for their 50-year anniversary with the company.