Our co-worker Keith Donner hit the 50-year mark as an employee at PROSOCO, Feb. 25.
I sent out a brief release about this amazing milestone. It follows at the end of this post. But it was a news release. While it gave the facts, it didn’t have the color or the feeling of what this remarkable man is like.
The following testimonial, penned by our company President David W. Boyer, who has known Keith more than five decades, DOES have that color and feeling.
KEITH DONNER CELEBRATES 50 YEARS
by David W. Boyer
50 years with a single employer is a milestone that very few people will ever achieve.
Keith Donner started his career at the Process Solvent Company on Chelsea Traffic way in Kansas City, Kansas in 1963. I was six-and-a-half years old.
My earliest memory of Keith was on a weekend. Occasionally my older brother Mike and I would ride along with Dad to the office where he would open the mail and deposit any checks that happened to be there before the banks closed on Saturday.
In the old Quonset hut, you’d go through the front door into a small vestibule. It was so small that the only wall – to your right – was just large enough to hang the portrait of AJ that now hangs in our entry hall here in Lawrence.
To your left was a half-wall and a sliding glass window. Behind that glass was the receptionist. In front of you was a glass door that the receptionist would buzz you through to enter the offices.
Once through that door, if you turned right and then right again, that’s where Keith Donner – with a head full of hair – was opening the mail, looking for checks.
Keith drove a Volkswagen Beetle – first generation. My grandfather, company founder A.J. Boyer, had told me that Keith used to live in the Ozarks. My dad had said Keith was back from the service. What I remember is that he sure seemed to smile a lot.
I don’t know if that smile came from getting out of the Ozarks or getting out of Viet Nam. I suspect it was a combination of the two.
As a kid I did some odd jobs at Process Solvent. One high school summer I worked in the plant. It was hard work. My grandfather AJ and Uncle Ken were there in the offices also. But, even then, it was clear that Keith Donner was Jerry Boyer’s right hand man.
It wasn’t until I started working for PROSOCO full-time that it dawned on me just how versatile and essential Keith is to this organization.
Down on Parallel Parkway and, later, on Minnesota Avenue, Keith was THE go-to guy for just about everything.
To a new employee Keith seemed to be in charge of purchasing, collections, accounting, human resources, office maintenance, public relations and employee morale.
When the heat went off, you’d find Keith – sleeves rolled up – down in the boiler room. When a secretary — that was in the days before admin assistants — had trouble, Keith would step in to help change ribbons in the typewriters, tapes in the steno machines, toner in the Xerox machine.
Need light bulbs or office supplies? Call Keith.
In the winter, if you were a woman working in downtown Kansas City, Kan., and you needed someone to walk you to your car after sundown, Keith would delay, “goin’ home to play with Mama,” as he is fond of saying, and walk you to your car.
In a bank meeting years ago – up in the old Terrace Club – a frequent visitor referred to Keith as a PROSOCO’s “utility player.”
But as the years went by … as I spent more time in those meetings with Keith – meeting bankers and lawyers and the like – it dawned on me that Keith is more like a “Franchise player.”
People on the other side of the table would look at his smiling face, listen to that Ozark twang and think “this is gonna be a walk in the park.” But that’s always been part of Keith’s magic.
That dawned on me about 25 years ago.
Keith uses that smile, those twinkly eyes and that “beanie weenie” personality — Beanie Weenies are a lunchtime favorite of Keith’s — to put himself in charge of a situation.
Keith, you’ve taught me a lot.
Dedicated, loyal, adaptable, resilient – those are all words that accurately describe Keith Donner. A hard-working, family-man, salt-of-the-earth kind of guy you can build a company around. A guy that will never embarrass you and will always be there when and where you need him to be.
Those are the words that come to MY mind when I think of Keith Donner.
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Keith Donner marks 50 years at PROSOCO
PROSOCO’s Vice President for Operations Keith Donner marked 50 years of employment with PROSOCO, Feb. 25.
PROSOCO, Lawrence, Kan., is a manufacturer of products for cleaning, protecting and maintaining concrete, brick and stone architecture.
A native of Malvern, Iowa, Donner grew up at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, where his family owned a tourist cabin court.
He studied business and accounting at Kansas City, Kansas Community College before joining PROSOCO in 1963.
“I started in the Accounting Department,” Donner said. “But in those days, everyone did everything, so I also loaded trucks, filled containers and did anything else that needed to be done.”
Donner joined the Army Reserve in 1965. He served a year’s active duty in Vietnam as a truck driver with the 842nd Quartermasters, returning to PROSOCO when his military tour of duty ended.
Since joining PROSOCO, Donner has served as purchasing agent and head of accounting. He helped open manufacturing plants and distribution centers in Georgia, New Jersey and Ontario.
Donner also helped PROSOCO develop many of its landmark restoration cleaning formulas, including a poultice powder for removing rust stains.
Restoration cleaning projects he’s proudest of having been involved with include the Chrysler Building and Grand Central Station.
Donner has served as PROSOCO’s vice president of operations since the late 1970s. Semi-retired now, he still works several days a week overseeing real estate and tax issues, and serving as a company mentor and historian.
“It’s important to me to have a place to go to work, and to have the friendship of the other employees,” Donner said. “I’d be lost without that.”
Donner lives in Olathe, Kan., with Janice, his wife of 48 years. They have three children, Kimberly, Brian and Aaron, and seven grandchildren.
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