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Saying goodbye to one of the

Grange's greatestLoyal employee will retire after 40 years at the Grange Co-op

CENTRAL POINT ' The Grange Co-op next month will say farewell to someone who has been loyal to the company for as long as the grain elevator at Highway 99 and Pine Street has been standing.

Petroleum operations manager Howard Misner will retire from a 40-year career that began in 1963, when he was hired as a feed truck driver for &

36;1.40 an hour.

Misner, 59, who has worked at the Grange longer than any other employee, has made headlines over the years for his efforts in Salem to bring self-service gas to Oregon and in Central Point to block a proposed diesel tax.

It's no coincidence, he jokes, that he recently wrote an article titled The Way it Was for the company newsletter. He was around for most of it.

— When I began work at the Grange on March 23, 1963, we had about 35 employees and sales were under &

36;2 million, Misner said. Today the company's annual sales have climbed beyond&

36;28 million. The fertilizer plant had not yet been built and the Grange Co-op was just recovering from a devastating fire that destroyed the feed elevator the year before.

The then 20-year-old would spend the next three years delivering 100-pound sacks of feed to farmers. At the time, feed was packed in burlap sacks, retail services were minimal and the area was primarily agricultural.

The Grange had started out with just petroleum, our first commodity, and got into feed and seed and then fertilizer, he said. Today everyone sees the Grange Co-op for their retail stores but back then they had two little stores and when I say little, boy they were little. Probably the sales floor in the Central Point store was 20 feet wide and 30 or so feet long at the very most with a few odds and ends, salt blocks, seed and a few tools.

Misner delivered fuel to farms and businesses, worked as a Grange petroleum plant manager and was retail manager of the South Pacific Highway store before taking his final job in 1988.

We had just built the new Central Point card-lock and needed somebody to coordinate all of the company petroleum operations, he said. We had three card-locks, rural deliveries, direct ships by truck and trailer and the bulk plant.

Misner has lobbied at the state level for better laws governing card-lock ' or commercial self-serve ' stations. This year, he's been working with legislators in an attempt to legalize self-service gas at other stations. He also rallied against the city of Central Point when a cent-per-gallon diesel tax was considered.

I just don't like governments taking advantage of people and small business, he said. When the city considered that diesel tax I just decided they weren't going to do that ' and they sure didn't.

I brought out some of my big guns on that one.

Though he soon will retire from 12-hour days, Misner will hardly slow down. He will continue work as a wedding photographer, build custom furniture, enjoy outdoor sports and travel with Victoria, his wife of 40 years. A teacher, she retired this week from Hanby Elementary School.

Retail operations manager Jay Powell, who has worked with Misner for 28 years, said Misner's sense of humor, optimism and determination will be sorely missed.

Howard's just a great guy, Powell said. His biggest attributes are his enthusiasm for life in general and for people. And he's very company oriented. He lives and breathes Grange Co-op.

I think we'll all miss his personality and his sense of humor but one thing we kid Howard about is being extremely tenacious, Powell said. He gets on a subject or problem he's dealing with and he sticks with it until the very end whether the odds are stacked against him or not. And he will win.

We all realize that, so some of us just give up early.

Howard Misner is retiring after 40 years at the Grange Co-op. He worked his way up from truck driver to petroleum operations manager, making headlines as he went with his support of self-service gas and opposition to a Central Point diesel tax. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell