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Murray Journal

Defying time: 91-year-old Murray woman celebrates retirement after seven-decade career

Sep 11, 2023 09:05AM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Over 70 years ago, Ike was President, the Korean War was raging, Patti Page had a massive hit with "The Doggie in the Window," and Elaine Bracken of Murray started her first day on the job. While most of those events seem like distant memories, Bracken’s story, on the other hand, seems relatively new. In June, at the age of 91, Bracken finally retired. 

Having a career that outlasted several employers, her final one, Standard Plumbing Supply Company, celebrated Bracken’s 20 years with them and her retirement. The company hosted her soiree in its showroom to celebrate the nonagenarian’s achievement. 

Bracken grew up in the neighborhood near the intersection of 2600 South and 1500 East. As family legend goes, upon returning from school one day, Bracken's brothers were greeted with an unexpected sight: their newborn sister. "I was born at home," Bracken said, "and to their shock, there I was."

From her school days in Salt Lake City to a brief academic chapter at BYU, Bracken was poised to take on the world. But, it was in Pocatello, Idaho, where destiny truly called. "Basically, I needed a job to help make ends meet," Bracken explained about her start in the industry. She added, "A friend knew of a job for Turpin’s Supply....I started out as a bookkeeper."

At a time when working mothers were a rarity, especially in the age of “I Love Lucy,” Bracken was a pioneer. Reflecting on the challenges she faced, Bracken said, "Not many working moms in those days. Can't say I ever had any issues that I recall. I just worked hard."

Change is the only constant, and for Bracken, adapting to technological advancements proved to be a challenge. "The transition to computers was very hard for me," she admitted, adding, "I needed a lot of help from younger coworkers." Yet, like every other challenge, she faced it head-on, evolving with the times.

Relationships formed the bedrock of Bracken's career. "I worked with a lot of plumbers on a regular basis," she noted. One particularly strong bond was with Jill, a cherished colleague. "Jill was a very helpful coworker," Bracken said.

When asked about her driving force, even in turbulent times, Bracken was introspective. "I always liked the constancy of going to work," Bracken said. "Probably the best remedy for what ails you." This steadfastness was recognized and admired by Standard Plumbing Supply who presented her with a large picture commemorating her service.

In addition to handling sales and bookkeeping at Turpin’s Supply and Standard Plumbing Supply, she worked for Westland Bath. 

Bracken's decision to retire was influenced by health concerns. "Macular degeneration," she said simply. Still, reflecting on her journey, there's a profound sense of gratitude. "I feel so lucky to have loved my job for so many years," Bracken said.

Karrie Westenskow, Bracken's daughter, provided a heartwarming perspective of the woman behind the professional. "She was such a great example of an amazing work ethic," Westenskow said. She further added, "She helped myself and my brothers with so many plumbing needs. She would never let us buy what she knew were inferior products, even if she had to help pay for them."

Bracken's dedication to her family was unwavering. As Westenskow said, "I remember calling her at work for silly things, she was always patient and never made me feel like I was a bother."

In retirement, Bracken anticipates a blend of leisure and activity. "Going for walks to keep active," she listed among her plans, adding, "remodeling a bathroom. I love to go fishing any chance I get."

Her daughter adds, “She worries about getting bored and about being lazy. I say she's earned it.  But I see her having time to putter around her home, which she never had time for.” λ