ROCHELLE — This year Diane Johnson is celebrating 50 years of employment, which itself is not unusual. In fact, many people work well into retirement age, but what makes this unique is that she has worked for only one employer.
Back in 1967 when Johnson first started working for the Rochelle law firm, now known as Fearer, Nye and Chadwick, shorthand, carbon paper, and typewriters were commonplace. Attorney Robert Chadwick spoke highly of Johnson, who was hired by Phil Nye Sr. and Phil Nye Jr. on Apr. 11, 1967.
“Diane developed many skills early in her career, which made her an exceptional legal secretary,” Chadwick said. “Many of these skills, such as taking shorthand, are seldom used today, but on occasion are still quite valuable. Over the years, Diane has taken on more and more responsibilities, functioning as office manager. She has been a most loyal and valuable employee.”
Over the last half-century at the law firm, Johnson has seen areas of technology change from dictation machines and typewriters to fax machines and computers, but Johnson took those challenges in stride.
“The technology age, that definitely brought a challenge. Sometimes I think that with everything now in a hurry, a rush, I feel that some of the old ways were more thorough.” Johnson said. “I did not grow up with the computers. Just getting them in and learning how to do things on the computer was challenging and getting my brain to try and accept some of it.”
Even though things have changed, Johnson still incorporates shorthand as a way to take notes when working on files. The office still mails documents traditionally through the U.S. Postal Service too. Mostly, Johnson says the office communicated on an individual basis more often years ago, versus the electronic means used today.
“When we first looked at getting a computer, I think at that time people thought companies were going to change and not have the need for secretaries in offices,” reflected Johnson. “They have never been able to quite work them out. You cannot just have the machines.”
Johnson said in the earlier years, traveling was necessary when facilitating loan closings. She cherishes those times traveling with Phil Nye, Sr., as he would note historical references about the different areas.
“He was a great wealth of information, and he shared a lot of that with me,” Johnson said about Nye, Sr.
Johnson said over the years primarily her focus has been working with estates.
“It’s an area I know for a lot of people is not comfortable, but I feel it’s a fact of life. If I can help the families and we can accomplish what they need to have done and get it done easier because someone is assisting, then there is a lot of gratification in that,” Johnson said.
Currently Johnson works two days a week, with no thoughts of fully retiring, jokingly admitting she is not sure what will “be the sign” to tell her she is not going to work anymore. Even though early on there might have been thoughts working in a bigger city, Johnson is glad she stayed put in the Hub City where she moved to in third grade, eventually graduating from Rochelle Township High School in 1966.
“It was always so good to be near where my children went to school, and where I was familiar with everything,” Johnson said. “I have never regretted staying there, they’ve been very good to me over the years. We’ll just see how long I hang in there.”