The year was 1962.
John F. Kennedy was the 35th U.S. president, Wal-Mart opened its first store, Johnny Carson took over as “The Tonight Show” host, and locally, Doris Winkler of Marion, accepted her first full-time job.
But what Winkler couldn’t have known when hired as a secretary with the Marion County Research and Extension office, was that it would be her job for the next 55 years.
In addition to being a valuable asset to the Marion County office, Roberts said, Winkler was also dedicated to research and extension statewide.
Longest tenured person
“To my knowledge, Doris would be the longest tenured employee in all of K-State Research and Extention,” Roberts said. “I’m just not aware of anyone else, and if there were others, it wouldn’t be many.”
The reason, he said, is there just aren’t a lot of people willing to stay in the same position. Winkler’s job is seen more as a steppingstone—it’s just the way society is today.
“I don’t think anyone stays in the same job anymore because we get restless, discontented and we’re mobile,” Roberts said. “We get tired and want to do something else and we want a change of scenery.”
Renae Riedy, the former family and consumer sciences extension agent, said she was in the Marion County office from October 2014 through March 2017.
Riedy said Winkler was always there to help others.
“I was brand new to the extension system as an agent, so I relied on Doris to help me a lot,” she said.
“I will always remember her kindness and her feistiness. She is a go-getter, and always on the move.”
Riedy said there were days when Winkler worked circles around her, citing one example about how she would walk back to Riedy’s office, which was in the back of the building, to tell her something or let her know she had a telephone call.
“She helped me keep a timeline on what had to be done, pitched in to help all the time, helped me meet people, gave me relevant history for the position and was willing to try new things with me,” Riedy said.
“Doris also bailed me out when I had forgotten something at a program or when I wasn’t sure if the office door was locked.”
One time, Riedy recalled, it was about 9 p.m., and she wasn’t sure if the office door was locked, but Winkler went back to check, and locked it.
“She also planned my going away breakfast,” Riedy added.
When it came to lending a hand to somebody else, Riedy said Winkler would do whatever she could.
“Sometimes Doris wouldn’t give herself enough credit for all the kind things she did,” Riedy said.
Winkler kept Riedy and Roberts on deadlines they needed to meet, or picked up details they might have otherwise missed, Riedy said.
“Doris was the backbone of (our Marion) office,”she said.”She taught me a lot, and I will greatly miss working with her,”
Substantiating what Riedy said about Winkler, Roberts talked about some of his own early experiences with her.
“Sixteen years ago when I first came to Marion County Extension,” he said, “I felt overwhelmed, and frankly I didn’t know what I was doing.
“I can’t begin to count the number of times Doris bailed me out in those early years.”
With 55 years in the same department, Roberts said Winkler’s commitment and dedication were unparalleled, and difficult to repeat.
“Through the years, the extension office had three-agents and two office professionals office, but then came budget cuts, and we went down to two agents and one secretary,” he said.
Born in Lincolnville
Winkler said she was born and rased in Lincolnville, and her maiden name was Richmond.
After she and Gene were married, they stayed in Lincolnville.
Gene Winkler’s first job was at Bud’s Conoco in Marion.
“There’s only a few months difference between us,” Winkler said. “I am 74, and Gene is 75.”
A graduate of Centre High School, Winkler said after they were married, they lived in Lost Springs, but that didn’t last long.
“Gene and I had different times to be at work,” she said, “and so I rode to work with other people from Lincolnville.”
When Winkler started with extension, she said the office was located in what is now the front area of the Marion County appraiser’s office.
“I’m not sure how long we’ve been at the current location,” she said.
Even with 55 years on the job, Winkler said there were only three agricultural extension agents.
“Steve Tonn was the first agricultural agent when I started working there, then Kenton Springer and now Ricky Roberts,” she said.
Neighbor and good friend
Bev Cooper, who works in the Marion County Road & Bridge Department, said she and Winkler were neighbors, but most of all they are good friends.
“When I started working at the county, we started going to break together, and it just went from there,” Cooper said.
Cooper said she considers Winkler a personal and work friend.
“You will not find a more kinder person,” she said. “She has a good ear for listening.”
One of Cooper’s favorite stories had to do with counting animals after the county fair one year.
“One day when she came to break, I asked her what she had been doing,” Cooper said. “Doris said she had been counting goats, chickens and other animals after the fair, and she proceeded to tell me about them.
“I didn’t realize that there were so many different breeds,” Cooper said.
It became a standing joke between the two friends.
“I would say to Doris: ‘Don’t tell me you are still counting goats?’”
Winkler said she isn’t sure what she wants to do in retirement, but she has time to think about that.
Even before retiring, the Winklers have done a lot of traveling on the motorcycle.
“We don’t have the motorcycle anymore,” she said. “We have been all over.
As for hobbies, she said that Gene likes golf, but she said she hasn’t ever wanted to do that.
“I think it will come down to finding some volunteer work,” she said. “I do want to help the food bank because that is Gene’s passion.
“And I will probably have more time to go to church and help with making funeral dinners. I think that would be something that I could help with.”