I was eight in 1973. The time since then has seemed almost a lifetime
because, for me, it almost is. It is amazing to think that for one
person that same chunk of time has been a career.
My sister is Deb Waterworth. She is one the most kind, giving people
I know. She is the same person who attended the first week of
Kindergarten with me because I was scared. She has always watched out
for her brothers and family and put herself somewhere in the middle
of the pack when it came to dispensing her own time. Today she will
come first as she retires from her position with Pennington County
Human Services in Thief River Falls, Minnesota.
Deb Waterworth interned at the then Pennington County Welfare Office
in 1972-and loved it. She wanted to be a part of the efforts in which
the small staff of ten people was engaged. Her first day of work was
November 5, 1973. This was the same time most folks were watching the
Waltons and wondering what the “Watergate” trial involved. The
Vietnam War was coming to an end and Minnesota saw its first Laotian
refugees. Deb told me that one family she assisted had only one
member who could speak a little English-and she was three years old.
The little girl had learned English at a refugee camp. You couldn’t
ask a child to do that today and there are now interpreters to
assist. Deb said it was culture shock for both she and the Laotian
refugees but they were kind, gentle people and between them they made
Deb became Financial Assistance Supervisor in July of 1985, a
position that amplified her strengths as a good person. It is Deb’s
compassion that is her strong suit; that is how she makes things
work. She has always dealt with surprises-some tragic- through
personal compassion. She understands what it is like to be the other
guy. I suspect much of the good she does is in listening to
hard-time stories then trying best to make assistance programs fit
the situation. Deb told me she knows people make judgments about the
welfare system (me included) but that she is very proud of her body
of work. Deb had a few adventures along the way, including assisting
victims of Crookston flooding in the mid-seventies and later in Grand
Forks on-site with applications for assistance.
If ever anyone deserves to be on the receiving end of “you have been
a good and faithful servant,” it is my sister Deb. She can now enjoy
her retirement and life on her own schedule. Her husband, Mike, works
at Digi-Key and son Reed is employed at Raytheon in Marlborough,
Massachusetts so they will be out of her way while she spends time
with her three terriers and one labradoodle. Deb has always valued
her family and plans to spend more time with them although her phone
calls can be long and visits too spontaneous so I will still require
prior notification to any visits. I still like to hassle my sister
and couldn’t have a column about her be too laudatory without a
little sarcasm to balance all the sweetness.
By the time you read this, Deb’s retirement party will be finished.
Empty cups, paper plates and plastic sporks will mark the end of
Deb’s day and her days at the place she tried to make a difference
for almost four decades. Have a good retirement Deb.