By KRISTINA BAKER

Pharos-Tribune staff writer

Dressed in a faded navy blue uniform with his ID tag clipped to his shirt, keys dangling from his right hip and an American flag pinned over his heart, Tony Pasquale is the picture of an ideal employee.

At 90 years old, however, Pasquale, isn’t your average worker. Instead of spending his golden years traveling the countryside or just relaxing, this Logansport native is spending it punching a time clock.

Like Pasquale, more and more senior citizens are joining the work force, and they’re doing it for a variety of reasons. Insurance benefits and supplemental income are just a few of the reasons seniors are back at work, while others are simply doing it to stay active.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, roughly 150 million Americans serve in the work force with just over 2 million of them age 70 and older.

Logansport resident Maxine Fivecoate, who will turn 71 in May, is another example of a senior who entered the work force after retiring nearly eight years ago. It wasn’t by choice, according to Fivecoate, but rather out of financial necessity.

After losing her husband in 1999, “I found I needed to go back because of the bills,” she said. “We thought he had left me something,” but there was a mix-up with the insurance and it turned out she was left with nothing. “So I wound up going back to work part-time.

“I had several credit bills, insurance ... and all the extra payments. I just couldn’t afford them,” she said.

Fivecoate was 65 when she re-entered the work force, finding employment as a greeter at the local Wal-Mart store, a position she has held for the last five years. Finding a job wasn’t a challenge for the retiree. “I didn’t pound the pavement so to speak.”

As a part-timer, Fivecoate works four to five days, averaging between 20 to 28 hours by the end of the week.

Although her job is paying the bills, Fivecoate admits she would rather be spending her golden years relaxing.

“I do resent it. I resent every moment of it because at our age we should enjoy every moment of retirement instead of worrying about a job. ... I just feel it’s very unfair for senior citizens.”

For retirees like Pasquale, maintaining a job is helping him stay busy and young.

“Once these bones stiffen up on you, you’re done,” said the 90-year-old, insisting that staying active is the secret behind longevity.

For almost 30 years, Pasquale has been punching the clock for the Logansport Police Department in the traffic division. Before that, “I drove the senior citizen bus and I used to run the scale for Engineering Aggregates.” And all of that was after he served 30-plus years with the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Pasquale’s supervisor, LPD Traffic Officer Wes Peters, calls the senior an asset to the department.

He’s one of the most dependable employees, said Peters, adding that he rarely misses a day of work and is always on time. In fact, he often arrives early.

“I check in around 7:30 a.m.,” said Pasquale, a good half hour before the start of his shift. As a part-timer, Pasquale puts in four hours a day, five days a week.

Besides a good sense of humor and the colorful stories he tells of life years ago, Pasquale also brings decades of experience to the job.

“He’s probably the only one left who knows anything about these old meters,” said Peters, referring to the equipment that dates back probably to the ’40s. In addition to maintaining the parking meters, Pasquale also handles the traffic tickets that come in by sending out summons for tickets 30 days old or older and inventories all the recovered bicycles.

“I’ve always tried to keep busy,” said Pasquale, which is one of the perks of the job.

Staying busy is the reason 88-year-old Merle Grigsby of Idaville continues to drive a truck for Angle Trucking in Logansport. “If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t be doing it. And as long as my health is good ....”

A bank examiner for 38 years, Grigsby retired more than 23 years ago, but has remained active in the workforce throughout much of his retirement.

“I’ve done a variety of things since my retirement,” he said, adding that he’s been a sub for a rural mail carrier in Idaville, owned a furniture stripping outfit and used to travel to area high schools speaking to students about credit card debt and finances, among other things. “I’ve done a lot of things since I’ve retired.”

About eight years ago, Grigsby added licensed truck driver to his resume, spending the last six years with Angle Trucking.

Grigsby had been driving a truck for another company when he was let go because of his age.

It wasn’t long before Mike Angle, owner of Angle Trucking, heard about Grigsby and gave him a call. “He said he needed help,” said Grigsby, “and I said ‘I’m your man.’”

While some would argue his age is a liability, it was Grigsby’s reliability that won over the Angles. Mike’s wife Karen said Grigsby’s eagerness is what made him stand out from the rest.

“I wish we had a dozen men like him,” said Karen Angle. “He knows what it means to work. He’s very reliable. We think the world of him.”

Typically, Grigsby goes on short trips within a couple hundred miles of here — traveling to Kokomo, Rochester, South Bend, Chicago, Fort Wayne and Elkhart. “Once in a while I get a long trip,” he said. “Generally I leave the long trips to the young guys.”

Very few times has Grigsby refused to take a load, said Karen Angle, adding that he is always available whenever they need him.

Being called out on short notice doesn’t bother him. In fact, that’s what makes the job interesting, Grigsby claims. “I like surprises.”

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