In 1954, at age 18, Mary Boudreau hit the jackpot when she landed a job as a magazine filler at the Faribault Woolen Mill.
In those days, Woolen Mill jobs were highly sought after and difficult to obtain. But thanks to her sister, who already worked in the mill’s wood shop, Boudreau was welcomed to a company that employed her for nearly 65 years.
“I just love my work,” said Boudreau. “That’s the main thing.”
Boudreau hasn’t worked at the Woolen Mill since she was hospitalized in January with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and while she considers herself retired, she’d keep working if she had her way.
Throughout the years, Boudreau took on duties in every department of the Woolen Mill and helped train weavers and other workers.
“I worked with older people, and they liked me because I was nice,” said Boudreau, reflecting on her early years at the Woolen Mill. “Within one year I went from the bottom up to the top.”
Boudreau said she didn’t prefer making one product over the other — she enjoyed manufacturing everything at the mill, whether it was blankets, throws, scarves or accessories.
“I was interested in what I was doing and to see the finished product,” said Boudreau. “I’ll make them all. I miss it.”
A dual celebration
On Thursday, in conjunction with the Woolen Mill’s 154th anniversary, company officials and community members honored Boudreau for over 60 years of service to the mill. A short program complete with sandwiches, cupcakes and refreshments shed light on Boudreau’s contributions and the Woolen Mill’s ongoing legacy.
Paul Mooty, who along with his cousin Chuck reopened the Woolen Mill in 2011, kicked off the program by sharing a history of the Woolen Mill and Boudreau’s commitment to the company. He said Boudreau’s work ethic, incredible spirit and enjoyment of her job makes the Woolen Mill what it is today.
In 2017, when the Faribault Woolen Mill was invited to the Made in America showcase at the White House in Washington, D.C., Boudreau represented the company along with Chief Executive Officer Tom Kileen.
“It couldn’t have been a more perfect deal,” said Mooty.
During Boudreau’s employment at the Woolen Mill, she witnessed both the 2009 closing of the company and its revival in 2011, the same year the mill was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Mooty said Sen. John Jasinski, who served as mayor of Faribault at the time of the Woolen Mill’s closing, was “the steady hand” who helped reopen the company’s doors.
“To this day, one of my proudest moments as mayor was to see this building and these people back in business,” said Jasinski at the celebration. “It still brings tears to my eyes, honestly.”
To honor Boudreau, Mooty presented her with a wool blanket manufactured at the Faribault Woolen Mill. Other blankets were made in honor of former chief executives Pete Johnson and the late Richard Klemer, whose son Tom accepted the gift on his behalf.