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'COME ON EILEEN': Michigan woman retires from job at 95

When Eileen Visser was hired at Northfield Lanes in 1968, she never imagined she'd remain employed there for 53 years. But that's what happened.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Is there really an exact retirement age?

We always hear 65 or 67 are the ages to hang it up.

A West Michigan woman has redefined 'retirement age', because working everyday has been 'right up her alley.'

"Northfield Lanes just became my second home," said Eileen Visser, 95. "I think of all the 50-plus years I worked here, I only missed 5 days."

Eileen started fulltime employment at the bowling alley in 1968.

"I remember the manager at the time telling me, 'If you can bring me 16 teams [for a league], I'll hire you,'" Eileen said. "So I did it, and he hired me."

Eileen spent the next half century coordinating all the leagues, running the cashier's desk and offering bowling lessons.

"I didn't work the summers," Eileen said, "I always worked from September through May because that's when the leagues were."

In recent years, Eileen has flirted with the idea of retirement, but could never convince herself to actually do it.

"There was no way I was going to ask Eileen to stop working," said Jim Frey, who's been the owner of Northfield Lanes since 1996. "We inherited her as an employee and she's been amazing."

In early 2021, Eileen says she was diagnosed with Carpal-Tunnel Syndrome in her left hand.

"They told me that it was from bowling, but I'm not left-handed," Joked Eileen. 

Also, the bowling alley recently added modern technology, preventing Eileen from continuing to use her old typewriter and copy machine.

"I just knew for certain it was time," Eileen said.

Northfield Lanes knows it has some big 'bowling shoes' to fill with Eileen's retirement.

"We're managing; we're managing," said Jim. "There's a hole, but we're managing."

As for what Eileen plans to do now that she's retiring 5 years short of becoming a centenarian, Eileen says, "I haven't figured that out yet."

On Sunday, June 13, Northfield Lanes (2222 Plainfield Ave.) is hosting a retirement party for Eileen Visser. It starts at 2:00 p.m. and ends at 5:00 p.m.

The public is welcome to come meet Eileen and wish her well.

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