When Industrial Sheet Metal Manufacturing closed in Rockingham in 2005, about 125 people were out of jobs.
Not just workers to him, former employee Charles Leviner said his coworkers were like family. He said when his 19-year-old son died in a wreck, “everybody at the plant came to the funeral. No matter what we had against each other, we always set our faults aside to come together. Always had, always did.”
In 2009, Leviner felt inspired to begin holding Industrial Sheet Metal reunions. This past Saturday, he held the fourth one at Rockingham’s Fish Camp Seafood restaurant. Former employees were invited to bring their wives and about 25 people were in attendance.
Leviner has a special place in his heart for those men he worked with at the plant.
Leviner said he was overwhelmed by the turn-out to his son’s funeral in 1996 and was deeply affected by the presence and condolences of his superiors.
“I just couldn’t express how great I felt,” said Leviner. “You never forget something like that.”
Four months after burying his son, his grandson died of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Again the funeral brought out fellow employees and management personnel.
“Industrial Sheet Metal was there for me. The others feel the same way. I have talked to others. Some make it every year and some make it when they can,” said Leviner.
Leviner said it is rare to find a place of employment as welcoming as Industrial Sheet Metal was.
“I enjoyed the work there, I enjoyed the people. If you don’t mind working inside together, that’s great,” said Leviner.
Dwight Dennis of Marston worked at Industrial Sheet Metal for 24 and a half years.
“It was definitely one of the best jobs I’ve ever had,” said Dennis. “It was a small company but very little turn-over.”
Dennis said when he joined the team at the plant, many men were just leaving high school and entering the workforce. They bonded, watched each other grow and attended each others’ weddings and saw children born. Dennis worked full-time as a fireman in Rockingham for four years until he joined the workforce at Industrial Sheet Metal. When the news of closure came, it hit the workforce family hard.
“It was a shock,” said Dennis. “We were alarmed. We couldn’t believe it. It was devastating at first, you got all these good friends you work with.”
The plant began to phase out workers before closing the doors and Dennis went to work for Trinity Manufacturing in Hamlet, but wasn’t satisfied. He had to work harder for not as much pay. Then he received a job offer from his former employer, at a new location. He said he was fortunate. Some displaced workers had to travel as far as Greensboro to find work.
Thanks to Leviner’s reunions, the former workforce can meet and keep up despite other changes in life.
“It’s very pleasurable,” said Dennis about the reunions. “It’s something I look forward to. You get to catch up and see how people’s wives and kids are doing. It’s very rewarding.”
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.