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Bruce Phelps, 97, owner of Fulton Tool in Fulton, said he’s worked all his life—and has no plans to retire. He still goes to his office most days of the week.

Hi Ho, It’s Off to Work I (Still) Go

By Steve Yablonski

For some local entrepreneurs and employees, retirement remains an elusive concept

Are you an older American who has made a decision to continue working? 

If so, you have a lot of company these days.

Many Americans are working longer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 65- to 74-year-old and 75-and-older age groups are projected to have faster rates of labor force growth annually than any other age groups.

These groups include employees who want to work full- or part-time past their normal retirement age, owners who want to continue running their businesses and those who have embarked on a new career.

A survey by the Employee Benefits Research Institute revealed that nearly nine in 10 workers who anticipate working for pay in retirement say this will be a source of income for them (87%). Just 30% said it would be a major source of income.

Here are a few people who chose to remain in the workforce.


• Bruce Phelps, 97, of Fulton Tool, said he’s worked all his life — and has no plans to retire. 

”I’ve worked all my life, starting in my father’s store. In 1959, along with two partners, I founded Fulton Tool and have never thought of retiring. Family, faith and work are vitally important and keep me going,” he said.

“I enjoy coming in every day and interacting with our entire staff.  Being part of a team that is hard-working with its focus on the future is what makes Fulton Tool a great place to work,” he added.

• Buddy Stemple of Oswego had his first jobs starting when he was 11; mowing grass and a paper route.

“I’ve been working in the aluminum industry for 43 years,” said the Oswego resident who serves as CEO of Constellium Rolled Products in Ravenswood in West Virginia. “I like to work and I am a person who needs something to do,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate to be associated with great companies and great people and I still enjoy coming to work each day.”

He can see retiring from his current job in the next couple of years, he said.

“But that doesn’t mean stopping to work,” he added.

“You get to a point in life, and I’m there now, that you have to make a decision based on the things in life you still want to do and how much time and physical capabilities you have left to do them.”

He believes that everyone needs a reason to get out of bed in the morning and that’s different for everyone.

“If I were to retire without a plan to occupy my time, I would only end up in trouble,” he quipped.

• Dennis Ouellette, president of Ontario Orchards in Oswego Town, is at an age when most are considering retirement.

“But my family doesn’t think so,” he quipped. 

“Are there more people [working after their retirement age]? I don’t know if there are more. But, more people today seem to be enjoying their work after retirement age,” he said.

Some workers have retired, but opted to start a second career.

“There are two reasons for that,” Ouellette said. “The first reason is boredom and the second one is financial. A number of people that I have talked to over the years say they just want to have something to do. They get tired of just sitting around and they want things to do. They want to stay occupied and stay healthy so that they stay strong and live longer. I just got back from (a ski trip) in British Columbia. So, yes, I am staying active.”

A number of people just like to have that financial security that comes along with a job, especially those older than 72, he added.

• Bill Reilly, owner of the river’s end bookstore in Oswego, said, “I’m still working because I love what I do. Oswegonians love having their own bookstore; and I love being the caretaker of their store.”

“We have the absolute best staff and awesome customers,” he added. “Given that our son, Emil, is running the show, I also have a fair amount of flexibility.”

Reilly had been in New York City for 25 years; worked one place his entire career (Newsweek magazine) and retired at 46.

“Decided I was going to leave the city and move to Oswego. I retired in ’96, moved here and got married within a few days of the move,” he said. “At that point, I turned to [his wife] Mindy and said ‘so now what am I going to do with the rest of my life?’”

He was “kind of young to be retired; had a lot of life left.” So, he decided to open a book store.

• Bill Nadeau, 69, of Syracuse, was a technician for Verizon and retired at age 56.

“I had 37 years with them. To be honest with you, I was bored to death with retirement,” he said. “At the time, I had a wife that didn’t like to travel. And that wasn’t me. I gotta stay busy. I worked with the public my whole life. I had to stay busy. I stayed retired for several years. But I just couldn’t stand sitting around.”

So he started Uber driving. He also started volunteering at the Landmark Theater as an usher.

“They have been going all season long. As a matter of fact, they convinced me to become a paid employee. So now I’m kind of a supervisor over the ushers,” he said. “I’m keeping busy. I’m going to stay with it a few more years at least, I’m sure. I have no desire to just sit around. I like being around people—it’s something I enjoy!”