When Allan Boffey arrived in work to begin his last shift yesterday after almost 50 years at the same firm he was not prepared for an emotional surprise from his son.
Shaun Boffey estimates over the years his dad has clocked up around 18,000 working days at Wakefield-based engineering company, Joseph Rhodes, since he joined as an apprentice fitter at the age of 16. Unknown to his dad he sent an open letter to the company in time for his dad’s last day describing the firm as “a living, breathing relative” and thanking the business for what it had contributed to Mr Boffey’s life and that of his family.
Mr Boffey, 42, who works for the NHS said in his letter: “Joseph Rhodes has been an integral part of my dad’s life and his family’s life. You have seen my dad grow from a 16-year-old apprentice to a 65-year-old man at retirement, through marriage, his first mortgage, becoming a father.
“You have been part of my life since my birth 42 years ago.
“You have been part of discussions at the family table – like a cantankerous Grandfather – sometimes good and sometimes bad. You have paid for our holidays, and the double glazing in my house.
“I thank you for how you have contributed to my dad’s life and I thank you for what you have contributed to my life. I also hope that you understand and appreciate how much my dad has supported you, and what you mean to him,” the letter adds.
His father, who has spent the last 20 years at the company as a foreman and is now in his 48th year of working for Joseph Rhodes, said he was surprised when he heard and read the correspondence.
“It was very emotional. I did not expect it, I did not know anything about it,” Mr Boffey said of his son’s letter.
“I read it and up to that moment in time I had not been very emotional but it really touched me.
He added: “I was very proud that he had put it together in such a way and he more or less nailed everything about the company and myself.”
Mr Boffey, of Wakefield, who is married to Catherine and also has a daughter and two granddaughters, began his working life at the age of 16 and apart from a couple of years in the 1980s he has worked for the company ever since. His role with Joseph Rhodes has taken him to many countries including Sweden, Nigeria, Russia, New Zealand, the United States, Singapore and others on behalf of his employers.
His son says his dad has relayed stories to his family of his travels: “..the chicken claw in the soup in Singapore, the tray of food he shared with the workers in Russia.”
He also recalls his trips to the factory to see “the massive machines my dad had built” and the Christmas party, where Santa gave out presents, including a magic set, which he kept and which remains in his dad’s loft. In the summer he recalls how families came together to watch the company’s cricket team play at a ground in Sandal and notes “it was always sunny, there was always pop and crisps.”
Ian Ridgway, the company’s chairman said he had employed Mr Boffey all those years ago.
“I set him on as an apprentice. It was a very good choice.
“The company has benefitted tremendously from his experience.” “We will miss him,” Mr Ridgway added yesterday.
“He said he would not retire until I retired but he has beaten me,” the chairman said.
Mr Boffey said he felt it was the right time to retire: “It’s the right time to be going for me but I will still miss it because I have enjoyed it. I have got all sorts of memories about the company.”
He said he already had plans for his retirement including decorating his house and plans to enjoy a holiday or two.