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Waterford - After 50 years on the job, Frank Petrone wasn't about to duck out early on his last day.
"Oh, I won't be leaving until 3:30, or a little after. Generally, it's a little after," Petrone said Friday, an hour or so before bidding a final farewell to co-workers at the Connecticut Light & Power field office on Myrock Avenue.
It was the end of a rare and remarkable career - rare for its sheer length, remarkable for its steadiness.
In 50 years, the 83-year-old Petrone said, he never took a sick day. Check the timesheets. Not once.
A stock handler for most of his career, his job was to order and log in and out the materials line crews needed. Nowadays, much of the tracking's done by computer.
The soft-spoken Petrone strikes a first-time acquaintance as a detail man.
"Working in the stockroom, you're dealing with numbers all the time," he said. "You've got these different numbers in your head."
His first day on the job, in Mystic, was May 6, 1963, a week after CL&P's acquisition of The Mystic Power Co. A vintage copy of the company newsletter identifies him as "another newcomer, utilityman Frank Petrone."
For the first couple of years, he worked in a garage the company rented. Then, in 1965, they moved into a new building in Mystic. That, he said, was the same year the stockroom was introduced to the forklift.
His department migrated from Mystic to the New London-area office in Waterford at the end of December 1993.
By then, Petrone had decided to go for it.
"When I got past 25 years, I decided I'd make my goal 50," he said. "I was in pretty good health, so I said, 'I'll just keep going.' I was always one for working. I just didn't mind it. Never had any hobbies."
At some point, he realized how rare he was.
"When we started, everybody thought you had to retire at 65," he said.
Born in Westerly, Petrone married his wife, Joanna, in 1955. They settled in Stonington that year, and eventually raised a son, Wayne, and daughters Frances and Roslyn. They have six grandchildren.
"I'll just spend more time with my wife," he said of retirement. "I'm going to be there to give her a helping hand. She's glad about that."
Petrone produced some brittle pages documenting his military service. He joined the U.S. Army in 1951, enlisting, he said, before he got drafted.
"After basic, they asked for volunteers to go to Hawaii, but that's not where they sent you," he said.
In Korea, he earned a service medal with two bronze stars.
He remembered a fork in the road back in '63.
"I could have had a job with the post office," he said. "It was either the post office or CL&P - they both came up the same day."
The lettering on the cake at the party his co-workers threw him a couple of weeks ago revealed the path he chose:
"Frank, Thank You for Your Dedication of 50 years with CL+P. Happy Anniversary."