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Super Senior: Harmon Thurston - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Super Senior: Harmon Thurston

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FOREST DALE, Vt. -

Harmon Thurston is going for a stroll.

"All right, I'm walking, all right," he said.

It's inside his business, New England Woodcraft in Forest Dale.

"I'm getting my exercise!" Harmon said.

The 91-year-old is on the factory floor three or four times a day, greeting the workers in his native Maine accent. He's the king of the one-liners.

Reporter Joe Carroll: It seems like everyone says hello to you.

Harmon Thurston: Yeah, they want a check! (Laughs)

For all the humor, there have been challenges.

"If you look at that, you will see where I got started," Harmon said, pulling out a book of memories.

From meeting Maxine in Maine...

"We went to a dance. One thing led to another," he said.

...to starting a furniture business.

"So we went, started on our own and we started in a one-car garage," he recalled.

Harmon made stools and Maxine did the books. The first year they grossed $142.

"If that is making money, yeah, I was making money," Harmon said.

Now, the company makes furniture mostly for colleges and the military. They employ 150 people; no need to punch in.

"No. The idea is if you have to have time clocks, you would be like a bunch of cattle," Harmon said. "If you worry about money all the time, get the hell out of it. Because money is nothing but a headache."

But money is the oil that keeps a business humming. The cash, though, came to a halt in 1985.

"It burned the warehouse down," Harmon said.

An electrical fire destroyed most of the business.

Joe Carroll: Did you think of closing down?

Harmon Thurston: No! What's it going to do? I'm supposed to get work for them and they're supposed to make it. Pretty damn simple to me.

It was Harmon, Maxine and their kids who rebuilt the business. Charlie still works side by side with his dad. He has a self-proclaimed title.

"Oh!" Charlie said. "Son of the Boss-- SOB!"

Dry humor runs in the family.

Buildings can be replaced; a loved one can't.

"Four years ago today she was killed in an automobile accident," Harmon said, looking intently at a photo.

Maxine was coming back from a bank when she passed out and hit a tractor-trailer head-on.

"So that was a hard day," Harmon said.

In an instant, his wife of 60 years was gone.

Joe Carroll: Could he have done this business without her?

Charlie Thurston: Oh, I think they were a perfect team in that matter, so...

Harmon's family and employees gave him the strength to continue on and keep joking.

"Gary looks after money, so I have to keep an eye on him," Harmon said to an employee.

Hard work built the business. A personal touch keeps the plant humming.

Harmon said, "I don't give them hell because I don't want them to quit and I have to do the work."

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