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Retiring at 55 — not age but years of service

Staff writer

Being a secretary and office manager in the Kansas State University/Marion County Extension Service office has been the work of a lifetime for Doris Winkler, who will retire at the end of the month after 55 years.

She began at age 18, soon after graduating from Centre High School and marrying her husband, Gene, in 1961.

When Doris began, there were three county agents, including an agent that focused on 4-H. Now there are just two, one for agriculture and one for the home.

She has served four agriculture agents, including Lester Griffith, Kenton Springer, Steve Tonn, and the current agent, Ricky Roberts.

She got along well with all of them.

“When agents stay longer, it makes it easier,” she said. “You learn what they expect of you. They’ve all been great, and they’ve all become our friends.”

At first, Winkler produced letters and articles on a typewriter and copied newsletters using a mimeograph machine. An Address-o-graph machine was used to stamp addresses on mailings.

For years, 4-H students were required to send enrollment cards to the office. Now it is done online.

Extension homemaker units were popular when Winkler began but gradually faded out as women took on jobs and young women got busier.

Winkler accepted the challenge in recent years of learning how to produce documents and keep records on a computer.

Home extension agents have become known as family and consumer science agents.

Winkler witnessed the changes that came to farm country. Dairies were numerous when she started but now can be counted on one hand. Farms have gotten bigger.

“Whatever happened to farmers, I felt that, too,” she said.

Although 4-H clubs have become smaller, a lot of families are still the same.

“The kids grow up, get married, and then their own children are in 4-H,” Winkler said. “A new generation comes around.”

Extension agents can communicate with the public by email, but Winkler said that eye-to-eye, personal connection still was important.

She has mixed feelings about quitting.

“I’ve always had a job,” she said. “It’s going to be different.”

She had thought about quitting for a while, but the time now feels right.

“Agents can do their job with technology,” she said. “They need somebody younger who knows more about technology.”

She has no special plans for retirement but intends to do more of her favorite activity, reading.

She has been training Jana Miller of Peabody to take her place. Miller will assume her duties Aug. 1.

Last modified July 27, 2017

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