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Someone You Should Know: Retiring after 53 years at Lake Area Tech

Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 6:26 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Charlene Kruger got hired at Lake Area Tech, shortly after graduating from right across the street, Watertown High School in 1968.

“I had a teacher. An office practice instructor that I worked with. And she found out there was a job opening over here so she said why don’t you go interview for it. So I did. It was like a half-hour interview, I didn’t even fill out an application actually. And got the phone call that said I could come in June. And I said how about the one in August. I’d like to have the summer off a little bit I said. He said that was fine, so started working August 5th, 1968,” said Charlene.

Charlene took the job as the secretary to Lake Area Tech’s director. A position she held for about half of her time at the school.

“For about 25 years, I worked for the different directors. First, it was Lindahl, then Dr. Johnson, then Leonard Timmerman and Gary Williams, and plus other people that were around,” said Charlene.

In 1998, Charlene moved into other administrative roles. Earlier this year, after close to 53 years at the school, she decided it was time to retire.

“You just know that it was time, and my husband is getting older, he’s older than I am. I just went with the flow, I guess because I knew I was never going to leave Watertown. Wanted to stay here I guess, wasn’t looking for a different job. We farmed which I enjoyed that too, part-time. And so I just had everything I wanted I guess,” said Charlene.

“Lake Area Tech is celebrating their 56th year this year. So when you think about someone who has been at a place of work for 53 years. They’ve been here as long as this place is open. To see the progression of the growth of the students and the programs to see how things have changed from no computers to computers, from phones to cell phones, she has seen all of that transition,” said the Director of Student Services LuAnn Strait.

“It was just meeting people constantly and helping them knowing what I knew and helping them since they were all so new coming here to the school. And the teachers, it was just a joy helping them,” said Charlene.

And Charlene worked all of those years with the same chair.

“It’s only been covered once. And I still have the same old hardback hard bottom chair and so I took it home with me because I knew it would be out in the trash as soon as I left,” said Chalene.

“I do all the furniture placement order. So I would ask her if she wanted a new chair she always told me no. Everybody knew that that chair was in tough shape. For her, it fit her. It was her chair and no one was going to mess with it,” said LuAnn.

She’ll miss it, and they’ll miss her.

“You know Charlene has a good soul. I think that we’ll miss it more than anything. We called her our sunshine lady. She would place orders for flowers when people were in the hospital or had a death in the family and send cards,” said LuAnn.

“The people you do definitely miss. The kids are getting so since I’m getting older and they’re young. They’re more knowledgeable in technology than I am. But it’s the staff that you really get to miss. It’s just amazing how fast it’s gone by in 53 years. Every day it’s something 8-5 comes and goes, just unreal,” said Charlene.

The end of an unreal career.

Charlene says she’ll spend more time with her two kids, four step-kinds, and 12 grandchildren, and continue farming with her husband.

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