LAKE JACKSON – Once a year, hundreds of retirees with thousands of years of combined experience gather to reminisce and learn what’s new about the company and people who were part of their lives for decades.

The Dow Texas Operations Retiree Reunion welcomed about 1,600 visitors to the Dow Academic Center at Brazosport College on Friday.

Dow had a foundation in building Lake Jackson, and many of its retirees have stayed in the area, so the event gives them a chance to visit, said Jennifer Mendoza Jones, a senior administrator who helped organize the event.

“Dow plays a big part in this community,” Jones said.

Some travel to attend each year, including Ed Jacklitsch, who came from Richmond to see old friends Friday. Jacklitsch worked as a chemical engineer for 30 years, retiring in 2005 at 58.

His career at Dow covered a significant portion of Jacklitsch’s life. He began in 1975, at age 27, after serving the U.S. Army Special Forces in Vietnam and attending San Jose State University.

Although he “had a great time” at Dow, he retired as early as possible, he said. It’s fun to come back each year and see friends, including retired physical chemist Jeff Birdwell.

Birdwell worked at Dow for 32 years and retired in 2006, he said. He started at Dow in 1974 at age 23, after graduating with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Stephen F. Austin State University, he said

A lot has changed since then, Birdwell said, and at this year’s reunion, he discovered a former coworker’s granddaughter had just graduated from his alma mater.

Jeannine Gilliam worked in energy systems for 21 years before retiring in 1995, she said. She lives in Lake Jackson, so she always attends the reunion, she said.

Though her eyesight is not as good as it once was, she likes to come in case she runs into someone she worked with, Gilliam said. Her father worked at Dow for more than 40 years, so she used to attend the reuinions with him, too, she said.

John Henry Johnson comes back almost every year since he retired 14 years ago, he said. Johnson worked in operations then pipefitting, he said.

“Most of it was real good,” he said of his career.

The most memorable experience was when he ran from an explosion in polyethylenes, he said. A pipe burst right around lunch time and no one was hurt in the explosion, Johnson said.

Jones joked with her coworker that in a few decades, they will be putting on their best pearls to attend the retiree reunion, she said.

“It’s wonderful,” said R.P. Musick, a retired material handler of 31 years.

Dow wouldn’t be as successful as it is without all the retirees who were in attendance Friday, Site Director of Texas Operations Rich Wells said, who helped establish the excellent culture and safety standards of the company.

“We’ve done this on the shoulders of all of you in this room,” Wells said.

Maddy McCarty is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0151.

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