QUINCY -- Carmen Marshaus, 76, started her retirement this week, and after more than six decades in the workforce, it will be a new experience.
"I don't know if I'll like retirement. I've worked since I was 14," Marshaus said.
For the past 20 years, Marshaus has been the administrative assistant at the Oakley-Lindsay Center, seated where she could greet visitors on the second floor. Last Friday the OLC Board and several of her friends and coworkers honored Marshaus at a retirement dinner. Rob Ebbing, the OLC's executive director, said he felt like he's losing his right arm with the retirement.
"She's been the person who kept this ship running straight. She had a knowledge of where things are located and who we needed to talk to when something needed done," Ebbing said.
Marshaus described her job at the OLC as "a lot of disjointed duties" that involved a broad range of things.
"A lot of information comes through that position. It helps to be able to juggle several things at once," Marshaus said.
Starting at the OLC in February 1998, the civic center also operated Gems Baseball at that time. In those early years the center also had indoor soccer leagues and indoor volleyball leagues. Marshaus and other staff members often worked at the civic center during the day and then helped out into the night at special events.
"I did all the financials for the Gems, so I'd leave out from the office at 4 o'clock and if there was a double-header it might be midnight before I'd get home," Marshaus said.
Gems merchandise was sold out of a push cart, and the staff initially handled concessions, printed tickets and took care of all the other details needed at baseball games.
Hubert Staff, a member of the OLC Board during those years, said the civic center was not doing well financially.
"Carmen was a mainstay for many years in the operation of the center. Frankly, I don't know if we could have kept it open without her," Staff said.
OLC finances are on sound footing now, with increasing rentals of the exposition spaces and offices.
Marshaus said some of her most memorable experiences at the OLC involve a pair of presidential visits. In January 2000, President Bill Clinton gave a speech just west of Fifth and Maine the day after his final State of the Union address. The Secret Service was in town for weeks before the speech and set up their planning effort in the OLC.
"The Secret Service was meeting into the wee hours of the morning, and the lead agent was a woman. For a while they thought they'd have the speech in the Oakley-Lindsay Center, and she said they'd bring the president in through the west door," Marshaus said. "I spoke up and told her there was an empty hotel just across the street to the west. She asked how I would do it and I told her they should close off the north door, bring the president in through the south door and let the people in on the west."
Apparently the suggestion was taken well. Even though the speech eventually was given south of Washington Park, Marshaus received a Secret Service pin from the agents.
A visit by President Barack Obama in 2010 didn't seem as intense to Marshaus, although the event was held within the civic center.
Long before she started work at the OLC, Marshaus was administrative assistant for Chuck Scholz when he was director of the Western Illinois regional office of the Illinois attorney general.
"My title was director," Scholz said, "but Carmen really ran the office. I always said she was a good boss."
Marshaus said Scholz "was just a pup" at the time, only around 30 years old. She started calling him her fourth child.
Now retired, Marshaus plans to visit more with her three children, five great-granddaughters and six great-grandchildren. And she'll see if retirement is enjoyable.
"They tell me life is just a series of challenges. This will be a new one," Marshaus said.