AUBURN — Roger “Hoot” LaRoche jokes that he came in a package deal with the lumberyard.
LaRoche started working at Peter Allen Lumber in 1955, a New Auburn native just out of the Air Force. His brother worked there. The company was hiring for an office job in accounting.
And there he stayed, for the next 30-plus years.
“(In 1989,) Hammond bought them out and they bought me with it — same price, didn’t cost them any more,” LaRoche said.
He tried retirement, briefly, in 1997. In 2000, he came back after the sudden death of his wife, Solange.
“I was having a hard time adjusting; it was very shocking,” LaRoche, 80, said. “That was very, very nice of them. They’ve been fabulous to me — they really have.”
Once upon a time, he had a desk in a back office. Now, from 7 to 11 a.m., five days a week, he’s out front with a dozen other staffers at Hammond Lumber’s Poland Road store, where razzing and banter can fly.
“Ninety percent of the people who walk in (say), ‘What the hell are you still doing here, LaRoche? You’re an old man,'” he said, laughing. “I have a few choice words for them.”
Store Manager Steve Pray said LaRoche brings in a wealth of knowledge.
“He comes from a great era of work ethic,” Pray said. “He brings that here. He’s a great personality to have in the office.”
LaRoche grew up on Fourth Street in New Auburn, one of seven children. He still lives on Fourth Street but likes to say he’s moved up — up the hill.
He served two years in the Air Force overseas as a crane and shovel operator. He didn’t come back home with a desire to get into bookkeeping, or the traditional skill set associated with lumberyard work.
“I can’t pound a nail straight,” he said. “If I need anything done, I look for a handyman.”
But from the start, the job was a good fit.
“I enjoy the work; I enjoy the people I work for,” LaRoche said. “Every time I get up, I can’t wait to get here.”
LaRoche is a former credit union president and a longtime member of the Edward Little High School Grandstand Club. He still sells 50/50 tickets at home football games. For a 50-year stretch, he played in the Twin City Softball League, as a player, coach and umpire.
He and girlfriend Noella Breton enjoy watching all levels of sports for fun, particularly football and hockey. He also dotes on two grandsons and a great-granddaughter, 6-month-old Emma, “the cutest thing in the world.”
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