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Countryside employee retires after 34 years

Arliss Melby (left) poses with Countryside owner Carol De Young. Melby recently retired after 34 years of service.

It was around 1985, and Arliss Melby and Carol De Young were hiding in a bathroom stall at Countryside Plumbing & Heating as a vicious storm toppled trees and ripped at rooftops outside. Nearly three decades later, the pair recounts the incident in fits of laughter as they reminisce about Melby’s 34 years of service at Countryside.

“We were so scared, we didn’t know what to do,” Melby said. “So we got in the bathroom stall and made it through, and Carol’s been my friend ever since.”

De Young, who owns Countryside with her husband Jim, said the storm is one of many memories she will hold onto as she adjusts to working without Melby, who retired June 19 at the age of 81.

Having worked in the plumbing and heating industry since 1980, Melby served as the company’s retail sales manager. Besides taking phone calls, managing inventory and handling on-site customer purchases, she never hesitated to do whatever needed to be done, from washing windows to watering plants to cleaning the lunchroom.

“I really enjoyed everything I did,” Melby said. “It’s hard to explain how I feel about leaving. I’ll miss interacting with everyone. I’ll miss everything, really.”

While Melby wasn’t always regarded as the unofficial expert on all things Countryside, it didn’t take her long to earn that reputation. Though customers used to come in and ask for a man who could help them, Melby didn’t hesitate to prove her competency.

“Arliss can advise a customer just how to do minor do-it-yourself repairs better than some of our licensed professionals,” De Young said. “You should have seen the way customers’ chins would drop.”

Eventually, Melby said, it got to a point where people would come in and ask for her in particular.

“If I wasn’t in, they would leave and come back the next day!” Melby laughed.

Although she couldn’t pinpoint the moment when she decided it was time to retire, Melby did attribute some of the decision to advancements in technology. She has seen the company transition from cast-iron to PVC pipe and from 75 percent efficiency furnaces to 95 percent. Much has changed since she started working in the industry, and at times it was hard to keep up.

While Melby spent the latter portion of her career at Countryside, she has also worked as a farmer, florist, and school bus and milk truck driver. Despite her strong work ethic and many years of service, Melby said she doesn’t have any definitive plans for retirement.

“I have no hobbies, and I’m not really a traveler,” Melby shrugged. “I do garden in the summertime, and I’m sure I’ll spend plenty of time with family.”

Indeed, with the last name of Melby, she has too many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to count, but somehow she never seems to miss a birthday party, baptism or sporting event.

“The kind of loyalty and devotion she has in her soul is something everyone should have, but few people can even comprehend it in this day and age,” De Young said. “It is completely impossible to replace her in our business, and she will be missed by our entire staff, as well as our clients, contractors and vendors who have come to know her well.”

Jenny Hudalla
A senior at Bethel University, Jenny Hudalla is pursuing degrees in journalism, Spanish and reconciliation studies. Having graduated from New Richmond High School in 2011, she served as editor-in-chief of the Tiger Rag before taking a job as editor-in-chief of Bethel's student newspaper, The Clarion. After completing her internship with the New Richmond News, Hudalla plans to move on to a career in social justice.
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