Sixty Years of Service Comes to an End
BANGOR -- After more than 60 years of federal employment, Mary Lou Baillie could be excused for taking it easy on her last day.
But that's not Mary Lou. The diminutive 80-year-old arrived at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor's Delta Pier Friday long before sunup and planned to be productive.
"I'll work the whole day," she said. "I'm not going to cheat this government."
Baillie joined the Navy in 1951 as a 19-year-old kid out of Wyoming. She served more than 30 years, becoming the only woman aviation storekeeper promoted to senior chief and master chief. She retired from the Navy in 1982 and began working at the Trident Refit Facility -- now Intermediate Maintenance Facility -- in February 1983 as configuration and design coordinator. Baillie received her 60-year pin during a ceremony on Oct. 17 and retired again on Friday. She had mixed emotions.
"It's just another stage of life you have to go through," she said.
Baillie, about 5 feet tall and 100 pounds, has spent the past 30 years making sure the base's eight Trident submarines head to sea when they're supposed to. She documents their deficiencies and makes sure they have tech manuals, drawings and other necessities.
"I just like to come and work," she said. "I'm a worker."
And a darn good one at that, says Capt. Chuck Baker, commanding officer of the maintenance facility. When you look up "vanguard" on Google, images of Baillie pop up, he joked.
"She has overcome challenges and faced restrictions to opportunity few of us today have or will encounter," he said. "She has excelled in spite of these. Frankly, I think she loves being told she can't or shouldn't do something. That challenge seems to only stiffen her resolve. In that resolve, in that stiffened spine and focused gaze, she really does personify all that is best in our Navy, our military and our nation."
It's never been just a job to Baillie. She's serving the country.
"I've never had a job that I wasn't," she said.
Cmdr. Steve Vonheeder, IMF repair officer, calls Baillie an iconic treasure.
"She is absolutely unique in the dedication to duty," said Vonheeder, who deals with her daily at Delta Pier. "She's in before me, she never quits early, her dedication is inspiring. They don't make 'em like her anymore."
Baillie, who was named Civilian Employee of the Year in 2001 and received a Department of Defense Trailblazer Award in 2008, is a feisty one. She sets high standards, and expects the same of others.
"She wields so much respect out of every sailor and civilian employee on this pier," said Vonheeder, calling her "the Delta enforcer." "She will set you straight. She knows a thing or two and she's not shy about what needs to be done."
Baillie walked up the pier's causeway for the last time Friday evening, jumped in a van and rode off to her Central Valley home. She plans to take a short break and then start volunteering at local hospitals doing whatever they need. She's never had time to get the yard how she'd like it, and there are three poodles that want more attention.
"I'm feeling pretty good," she said. "At 80, you don't ever know. My body seems to be working. As long as I'm vertical I'm doing OK."
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