Going out with a flourish [UPDATED]Published 4:21am Monday, December 16, 2013 Updated 6:27am Monday, December 16, 2013
After initially being hesitant about having any kind of farewell party, Donna Piekarski finally relented and allowed some of her coworkers to plan a retirement get-together.
In fact, once she decided, she wanted to go big.
“We really wanted to make it special and have people know her dedication to this company,” said store manager Amber Huschka. “She kind of realized that after she retires, it’s done. We’re excited that she let us do it.”
Piekarski’s retirement party, held on Wednesday, came six months after her 50th anniversary at Wells Fargo. She started at the bank right out of high school.
Early on, Pierkarski bounced between the Fergus Falls office and a few locations in North Dakota, but settled in Fergus Falls permanently in 1974.
Many of Piekarski’s coworkers have been with her at the bank for several years, none longer than Diane Hendrickson, who has worked at Wells Fargo for 36 years.
Hendrickson had been dreading Piekarski’s retirement for weeks because she will miss working with the woman she often spent more time with than her own family.
“She has been one dedicated employee,” Hendrickson said.
For the party, Huschka and Sara Hanstad began planning about a month ago and invited dozens of Piekarski’s friends, family and customers to the bank. The four-hour party included two cakes, black and red balloons at each table and a large banner by the entrance that read, “Happy retirement Donna!”
Guests filed in throughout the day and Piekarski stayed close to the doors to greet them as they came. These kinds of personal relationships, both with her coworkers and her clients, are the things she will miss the most in retirement.
“I’ve seen them have children and now some of them are having children,” she said of her coworkers. “When you come to work five days a week, you are a family.”
The team at Wells Fargo will miss her too. Hanstad said Piekarski was able to brighten anyone’s day with a smile and a well-placed compliment. Customers who have been coming to see Piekarski for years will surely be sad to see her go.
“We have customers who will sit in the lobby and wait 20 minutes just to see her, no matter who is available,” Huschka said. “They trust her and they built that relationship with her.”
Even though Piekarski’s retirement is the end of a long chapter, she does not feel it is the end of her relationship with her coworkers. She told many of them Wednesday would likely be the last time she saw many of them at the bank, but she did not seem to think of it as a permanent goodbye.
Piekarski’s husband is still working in real estate, but the two will be able to share more mornings together now. She also plans to spend more time with her two grandchildren, including going to their sporting events.
She also hopes to give back to the community that she feels has been so good to her by volunteering and donating to charities.
During what she described as an “overwhelming” emotional day, Piekarski was not sad about leaving Wells Fargo. Rather, she was grateful for her time there and anxious to see what the future holds.
“I’m sure there will be a period of adjustment, but I just hope to consider the fun times I’ve had and go on from there to the next chapter,” she said.