Not many retirees can claim having worked at the same hotel 48 years, let alone tout a record of having washed and folded 774 tons of laundry during that time.

But Cindy Loder is an anomaly, a word her former boss used this week to describe her.

Loder, of Rome, retired recently from the Fireside Inn & Suites in Waterville, where she was both laundry and housekeeping supervisor the last 20 years. Barry Asalone, the hotel’s general manager, says they don’t make them like Loder anymore.

“It’s hard to replace somebody that is that dedicated — it really is. You think about it. What are the odds that any of us would be in the same job for 48 years? She was the only person in the laundry most of the time, so basically she was doing the laundry for 85 rooms. She could get downright mean when it came to a towel with a stain on it. She took ownership of the laundry. She was not going to rest until it was spotless. That laundry was hers. That was her queendom.”

Besides being a hard worker, Loder has a keen sense of humor, according to Asalone.

“She’s a pistol. She’s a lot of fun. She gave me a lot of hard times during the 10 years I worked with her, but I gave it right back to her and we both loved it.”

I got a taste of Loder’s big personality as I interviewed her last week about her life and career.

Cindy Loder, who retired from work after spending 48 years at the same job at the same hotel in Waterville, was touched when her co-workers gave her a surprise retirement party. “I didn’t know about it. I walked upstairs, and they all said ‘Surprise!’ All the employees. They bought me a cake, they bought pizza for everybody, they bought me flowers and a jacket with ‘Fireside’ on it.”

She started working at Fireside, which was then the Fenway Motor Inn, in 1971 when she was 16 and a student at Waterville High School. She worked part-time on weekends, earning $1.60 an hour. Her mother was executive housekeeper at the time.

“I used to work the front desk back when they had the old-fashioned switchboard and you disconnected people by mistake,” said Loder, now 65. “We had a push-button cash register.”

She later worked in housekeeping and became a chambermaid and jack of all trades, filling in as a cashier at the attached restaurant when needed. Over the years, the hotel would become a Howard Johnson’s and then Best Western and, in 1993, Lafayette Hotels.

Loder was rewarded with bonuses over the years that included all sorts of perks.

“I got a new stove with two ovens in it and a new bedroom set and a double recliner and an upright freezer, and I didn’t have to pay for any of it. We went to Las Vegas in 2009. I am scared of heights, and it was my first time on a plane. There were, like, 18 of us that went. Didn’t have to pay for the room. They took us to a show, Cirque du Soleil, took us to the Grand Canyon, took us to Hoover Dam, took us out to eat — Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant, in fact. It was good. It was fun. We stayed at the Paris.”

Loder enjoyed hotel work over 48 years and met a lot of nice people. Her hours were flexible. She got up around 4 a.m. every day and worked 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

I asked what sort of interesting things happened during her career that stood out, any events that were memorable.

“I found a dead body once in one of the rooms, a long time ago. They tried calling the room, and nobody answered. I opened the door, but the chain was across the door. You could see him lying there. The maintenance man broke the door chain. The guy had had a heart attack. Let’s see, what else? Oh, we used to have one guy come to the door with no clothes on. It got to the point the girls would go there to do the rooms and he’d do that. I’m like, really?”

Loder married in the early 1970s, more than a year after she started working.

“I wanted things, and he wanted the bottle. I divorced him and had a house built without a man. Just sayin’.”

But there was an upside to the marriage.

“I had three rug rats,” she said affectionately. “Course, they’re all grown now. My baby will be 39 next month. I have six grandchildren. The oldest is 21, and the youngest will be two.”

Loder re-married 18 years ago to a very nice man named Stephen, with whom she is happy to spend more time, now that she is retired.

“My husband has been fighting cancer for over a year,” she said. “He’s got two more treatments he’s got to go through. He’s going to be 72 this year.”

The last 18 months have been tough. She had rotator cuff surgery last year, which took her out of work for several months, and her arm is still sore sometimes.

“The microwave decided to kick the bucket. The pump in my well decided to go. I had a lot of things go on and no money coming in. If it wasn’t for my Mum helping me, I don’t know.”

Retirement is good, though. She gets to spend time with her children, a daughter, April, who lives in Belgrade; her sons Mark and Peter, of Oakland and Winslow, respectively; and the grandchildren.

“My husband and I belong to the Elks Club in Waterville, so we go there for the buffet or a dance and they have BBQs,” she said.

She was touched when her co-workers gave her a surprise retirement party.

“I didn’t know about it. I walked upstairs, and they all said ‘Surprise!’ All the employees. They bought me a cake, they bought pizza for everybody, they bought me flowers and a jacket with ‘Fireside’ on it.”

When I told Loder that her former boss, Asalone, who also is general manager for Fireside in Belfast, told me she had washed and folded an estimated 774 tons of laundry during her career, Loder’s response was quick and characteristically wry:

“That all? It felt like more. When you have 85 rooms and you have six sheets in a room, plus four bath towels and hand towels and face cloths and the guests all leave in one day? Yeah.”

 

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 31 years. Her columns appear here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


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