One of Iowa's last elevator operators retires - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

One of Iowa's last elevator operators retires

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Ann Kearney, 72, retired Wednesday from her elevator operator position Ann Kearney, 72, retired Wednesday from her elevator operator position
DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Dubuque has two of what may very well be the last manned elevators in the state of Iowa.

They're in American Trust and Savings Bank's downtown Dubuque location and have been running since the early 1920s.

During normal business hours, Monday through Friday, customers and employees alike get to interact with the elevators' operators. Much like the historic elevators they operate, these ladies are filled with character.

Ann Kearney has been operating the elevators at American Trust for 32 years.

"People who don't know it are a little surprised when you open the door and realize that there's an operator, but a lot of people do like having someone on the elevator with them also," Kearney said Wednesday afternoon.

This 72-year-old's smiling face is a staple throughout American Trust's 12 floors.

Wednesday, however, marked the end of an era.

"I'm retiring," Kearney said, standing beside a table bearing congratulatory cake and flowers. "I've been here for 32 years, and I guess it's time to leave. It's bittersweet because I like all the people and I like my job."

Kearney's counterpart Alice Arnold said elevator operation won't be the same without her colleague.

"She's a personality all her own," Arnold said. "Yes, I certainly will miss her."

"I've been hugged a lot today," Kearney said.

American Trust's director of facilities Kevin Goranson said operators such as these are hard to come by.

"Ann has all the attributes...as well as Alice," Goranson said. "They need to be funny, witty, polite, very personable. And, unfortunately, we haven't found anybody yet, so we're going to hire some temporary people."

Those will be replacements for Kearney. 86-year-old Arnold has been at the job for nearly 32 years and said she has no plans to retire any time soon.

"Not at the moment," she said. "I usually say, 'What would I do with my time?' It gives me a goal."

Despite the job's ups and downs, Arnold isn't ready to close the door quite yet.

The two manned elevators aren't American Trust's only elevators in the building. They're simply the only ones of their kind, with operators.

Until Kearney's retirement, American Trust had four part-time elevator operators.

Kearney had been working three half-days a week and said she'll be spending her newfound time in retirement with her family, which includes 10 grand kids and two great-grand kids.

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