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Woman retires after nearly 65 years as a federal employee

IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman joins Edena Wood at a celebration in honor of her retirement.
IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman joins Edena Wood at a celebration in honor of her retirement. (Internal Revenue Service)
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By Timothy Wilson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 3, 2010

Edena Wood had thought about it for years but finally decided it was time to leave after nearly 65 years as a federal employee. Thursday will be her last day.

Wood, 83, began working for the FBI as a fingerprint clerk in July 1945. After 30 years with the bureau, she moved on to the Internal Revenue Service as a secretary in August 1976.

"It's a good time" to leave, Wood said. "Besides, I don't want to work anymore. I'm tired."

That seems reasonable. After all, not many people have careers that span more than six decades.

According to the Office of Personnel Management, the average length of service for all federal employees as of December was 13.8 years. Only 3.85 percent of the federal workforce has service of 35 years or more.

Wood's accomplishment didn't go unnoticed by her colleagues. A retirement celebration in her honor was held last week at the IRS building in Northwest Washington. IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman said Wood served the agency with "a deep sense of loyalty."

Wood said she inherited the trait from her father, William Wood, who was in the Army. She said his influence gave her the fortitude to show up for work, even though there were times when she wanted to retire much earlier.

"Every year that came around I was going to quit. And then I never quit," she said. "I guess it's because I'm my father's daughter."

Wood retires at a time when the country is experiencing record unemployment levels, but when she entered the workforce, things were much different. World War II was nearing an end, and employment opportunities for women had increased because of men volunteering or being drafted into military service.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual unemployment rate for 1945 was 1.9 percent, extremely low compared with last year's rate of 9.3 percent. Wood said that getting a job was easy during that period, but the work involved was a bit more difficult.

"Jobs were easily accessible. The times were kind of hectic," said Wood, who was 18 when she was hired by the FBI. "When I first started, if you did anything it was by hand."

Aside from spending more time with her daughter, Nancy Maccord, Wood said she hasn't given much thought to what she will do in retirement. The Falls Church resident said she's just happy that it won't require commuting on Metro and turning on a computer.

For some retirees, saying goodbye can be difficult. But Wood said she would advise against staying too long.

When asked whether there will be anything she would miss about going to work every day, Wood paused for a moment and then said: "I don't think so. Not after all this time."

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