Years ago when a man retired, popular stereotypes had him playing golf all the time and shuffling around in a cardigan and slippers while driving his wife crazy by constantly getting in her way. That scenario is rarely brought up these days and nothing could be further from Don Walsh’s retirement plans. He retired Aug. 31, after 33 years with Eagle Power & Equipment in Montgomeryville, Pa., with a long “to do” list to complete.
In 1974, Walsh began his work at Eagle, known back then as Case Power & Equipment. The company was new (it first opened its doors in 1970) and Walsh was a young man just starting to think about a career and a family.
“At the time,” Walsh said, “I was 20 years old and working for Clemens Supermarkets. I was also attending night school at Temple University studying for my business degree. I read an employment ad for Case in a local paper and decided to apply. I was looking to make more money so I could afford to get married.”
Walsh got the job with Case, which made it possible for him to push forward marriage plans with his sweetheart, Marie, to December of that same year. Case was, in his own words, a career that “gave me the opportunity to successfully raise a family.”
Walsh and his wife have been “very blessed with three hard-working sons and a daughter-in law.”
His 33 years were all spent in the Montgomeryville location, but his position in the company varied throughout the years. Walsh moved from the parts department to assistant equipment manager; credit and finance manager, advertising; equipment and rental manager; and finally, full-line sales representative, the position from which he retired.
When asked if this was the career he’d originally had in mind, Walsh replied, “I was never thinking about the sales side of any business. At the time, I enjoyed business management and organizing a department to run as efficiently as possible. I was fortunate that positions opened in the company that gave me an opportunity to grow with the company.”
The opportunity for growth was just one part of what made Walsh stay at Eagle for so long. The main thing was ’without question the people with whom I had the opportunity to work,” said Walsh. “Case and Eagle have been very fortunate to have many long-term employees who are extremely dedicated and really care about the business. I have literally grown up with Case and Eagle from being a 20-year-old to recently becoming a grandfather.”
The quality of the people at Eagle was shown to Walsh not only through terrific working relationships, but also through the care they showed to him in a time of great personal sorrow.
“I will never forget Jerry McDonald’s [owner of Eagle] compassion when my middle son Matthew was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1986 and again during his eventual recurrence and passing in 1999,” Walsh said. “Dean Leonetti, the sales manager; Darwin Boe, the controller; as well as the entire sales force and all the other employees helped me with the work I needed to do, which gave me the opportunity to spend the necessary time with my wife and family.”
Walsh gives credit to his customers as another reason for staying with Eagle for so long. “I’ve also had a terrific group of customers from the owner/operator running his business out of the house to my largest account, Haines and Kibblehouse. It has been a pleasure serving all of them and many have become good friends.”
During the course of his career, Walsh has seen many things change, from the scenery along the highway where Eagle is located to the kinds of equipment he was selling. The most obvious was the change in the ownership of the company, which took place on Sept. 26, 1996. This could have been have been a difficult time for the company but as Walsh said, “The transition was seamless. The name changed, not the people. Jerry McDonald was the general manager while we were at Case Power & Equipment and he was able to purchase the business and rename it Eagle Power & Equipment.”
“Most of the [other] changes have been the growth in market share and the variety of products that we offer to the construction industry,” Walsh continued. “Eagle has grown to three locations covering the surrounding counties of Philadelphia, the state of Delaware, and Cecil County, Maryland.”
Work relationships are the things Walsh has enjoyed the most and naturally will miss the most as he leaves Eagle. When asked about this, he replied that it will be, “The relationships I’ve developed with my coworkers and customers and not being a direct part in the future growth of Eagle Power & Equipment. Jerry has a son and a daughter in the business who will very capably guide the future of Eagle for many years.”
As for his own future, Walsh finds himself back where the story began, “I currently attend Temple University four nights a week and will have a Masters in Education and a teaching certificate in special education completed in May 2008. On Fridays I volunteer in the special education department of a local high school. My goal is to teach a life skills class at the high school level.”
When asked what inspired such a departure from his first career, Walsh cited a number of reasons.
“Through the years,” he said, “I have seen the reward that teaching has brought to my wife and children. My wife, Marie, has her doctorate in education and teaches high school reading. Our oldest son, Don, taught high school special education classes for five years and is currently an assistant high school principal. His wife, Andrea, is a middle school English teacher. Observing my wife and children, I have been reminded of the important role that teachers play in shaping the future of our world. I have been fortunate to have accomplished all of my goals in my business career and now have the opportunity to give back. I want to become an integral part of an educational organization that provides students a variety of learning experiences so they can reach their full potential.”
But perhaps more than anything, Walsh is drawn to special education for one important reason.
“Matthew, our middle son, was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma in 1986 at the age of six. This necessitated the amputation of his right leg and a year and a half of intense chemotherapy. His cancer returned in his junior year of high school and he passed away within a year,” Walsh said.
“Throughout his entire life, Matthew never complained or said, ’Why me?’ He met life head on and did the absolute best that he was capable of until his last day. Matthew is my inspiration to teach special education.”
Fulfilling this mission in Matthew’s honor is just one part of what Walsh will do now that he has left Eagle. He has had several events to celebrate in his family in recent months and plans on continuing to attend more celebrations.
“Our youngest son, Joe, just graduated from MIT and is working for Apple computer in California. He moved there in July and Marie and I are planning our first visit to him in February.” Walsh said.
What may keep him the busiest, however, is the newest member of the Walsh family.
“Our first grandchild, Benjamin Matthew, was born on Aug. 23, 2007. Our son and daughter-in-law live nearby, so we see them every weekend. I’ll be very busy,” concluded Walsh, who is clearly delighted to take on the role of grandfather. CEG