Publication Date: Friday, January 14, 2005
Still working at 83
Still working at 83
(January 14, 2005) Local business owner doesn't believe in retirement
By Julie O'Shea
One would think that at 83, most people would be enjoying their golden retirement years. Gerry Harrison is not most people.
Not only does Harrison continue to put in full days at Personalized Placements, the Mountain View job-placement firm she started in 1961, the word "retirement" is simply not a part of her vocabulary. And this suits her just fine.
"[My husband and I] have traveled all over the world, and there's no place I want to go. All my friends are dead and buried, so there is no point in retiring," said Harrison during a phone interview last week. "I could stay home and be a couch potato and get fat and be lazy."
But that's just not her style.
A native of Washington state, Harrison moved to California with her family in 1944. Shortly after, she contracted polio but never once let the disease slow her down, coming into work each day with the aid of walking canes. After several short-term administrative jobs, a friend suggested Harrison look into starting her own job-placement business.
"I wasn't doing very much. ... One of my friends talked me into it," she said. "Just one thing after another developed, and here I am."
Harrison, who has lived in Los Altos for 50 years and gets a ride to work each morning from her neighbor, said Personalized Placements was profitable from the first day
"You either make it, or you don't make it," she said matter-of-factly. "My old boss and my husband didn't think I could make it, and that made me mad."
Needless to say, Harrison outperformed everyone's expectations. Her company has been a Mountain View fixture for the last 43 years, surviving both the dot-com bust and lousy economy. The company is a full-service business, placing people in tech firms as trainees or as office administrators, among other opportunities.
"Right now, you have to take what you can get," Harrison said.
Her colleagues and friends said it's Harrison's caring personality and commitment to the job that has kept the clients rolling through the front door of the El Camino Real business year after year.
"Her personal touch has been such a comfort," said Shamery Williams, who has known Harrison for nearly 15 years. "Her type of service would be called 'Old School' among the current generation of workers, but ... personal service is something society needs."
Paula Santos-Graves can't say enough good things about her boss.
"Gerry has a lot of success stories," Santos-Graves said. "Thing is, she has not made a mint for the commitment, nor does she focus on the bottom lines but (rather) the person and our needs.
"She is absolutely the most awesome woman I have ever met."
E-mail Julie O'Shea at email@example.com
E-mail a friend a link to this story.