Capitol staffer, 101, named America's Outstanding Oldest Worker

2010-08-10T17:36:00Z 2010-08-31T02:43:09Z Capitol staffer, 101, named America's Outstanding Oldest WorkerBy JoANNE YOUNG / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com
August 10, 2010 5:36 pm  • 

As far as she knows, the honoree said, she'll be back to work in January, when the Legislature reconvenes.

She'll keep coming back, Sally Gordon said Tuesday, "as long as I can do the job."

It's fun working at the Capitol, especially meeting the new senators.

In this era of term limits, senators and their staffs may change every four to eight years. But there's been no term limit for Gordon, an assistant sergeant-at-arms in the Legislature for 27 years.

The 101-year-old was honored Tuesday in the Capitol Rotunda as America's Outstanding Oldest Worker 2010, one of two in the country. The other was 104-year-old Emilio Navarro, from Ponce, Puerto Rico, who works 30 hours a week as a comptroller of a company he founded in 1952.

The recognition was sponsored by Experience Works, a national nonprofit with training, employment and community service programs for older workers.

A 2009 study showed nearly 2 million people 55 and older were seeking jobs as a result of the recession. The group strives to show the benefits and advantages of hiring older workers.

Nebraska dignitaries turned out for the event honoring Gordon: Gov. Dave Heineman; U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson; retired Gen. Roger Lempke, representing U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns; and Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Heavican.

They lauded Gordon as a lifelong learner, a role model to older workers nationwide, friendly, helpful, a Nebraska treasure.

"When I think of Sally Gordon, you know, she's an institution here at this Capitol," Heineman said. "There isn't a person in this Capitol, frankly I imagine in Nebraska, who doesn't know this young lady, and what she represents and what she really means to the state."

Heineman said Gordon is an inspiration.

"I hope when I'm her age, I can look just as young and vibrant," he said.

No one else has her flair and singular sense of style, the speakers said.

"We could all take a few fashion tips from Sally," Nelson said to applause from a crowd that filled the Rotunda.

Gordon showed up to the event wearing black, accented by a wide-brimmed black and white hat, a shiny silver scarf and black ballerina flats. She wore jewelry she had received as gifts: antique-silver bracelets and a brooch, rings and glittering earrings her daughter bought for her in New York from a shop owned by Jolie Gabor, Zsa Zsa and Eva's mother.

Nelson said age is more a frame of mind than anything else, and if you don't want to be old, you don't have to be old.

Anyone thinking about enacting age limits or age requirements, "I ask you to take a look at Sally before you start fooling around with the rest of us," he said.

Nebraska Department of Labor Commissioner Catherine Lang said Gordon represents a life of social and civic engagement at every stage of life, and 40,000 older Nebraskans who continue to be a vital and necessary part of the state's social and economic engine.

Gordon had this advice for people entering the workforce, said Billy Wooten, executive director of Experience Works.

Learn new techniques.

Listen.

Be kind.

Understand what your business does and what your employer is about.

And get along with your fellow workers.

Gordon thanked everyone for sharing the day with her.

"I hope my story will be an inspiration to others," she said.

Reach JoAnne Young at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com.

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