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Machine shop veterans gather annually to reminisce

Organizers of the annual retirement party for Arcelor Mittal Machine Shop veterans are, from left, Milan Momcilovich, of Griffith; Robert Walker, of Hobart; John Schafer, of Portage; Paul Carlson, of Cedar Lake; Grady Gentles, of Dallas, Ga.; and Warren Kuehl, of Mokena, Ill.

SCHERERVILLE | Arcelor Mittal Machine Shop retirees definitely know how to party.

"This party is one of the longest running in the industry," organizer Milan Momcilovich said of the annual soiree started in 1958 by a group of salary supervisors, Warren Kuehl, Bill Miston and Matt Starsovich.

Shop employees represented different nationalities and backgrounds, but the 200-man department was a tight-knit group that worked around the clock making parts to keep the mills running. Many of the machinists came from Europe after the WWII as skilled craftsmen.

"The men shared their many talents and taught each other the tricks of the trade," Momcilovich said. "The new came and the old left and Warren wanted to show his appreciation for their dedication. He decided to start a party where they would be able to share their shop stories and wish the retirees good luck."

The first party was held at Cesar Batiste Hall in East Chicago. Kuehl sent out cards with 2-cent stamps and bought a case of beer for $6. The retirees were given a wallet with $5 in it for good luck and when the past retirees complained, they where given $3 each.

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The party continued at Cesar Batiste Hall for more than 40 years until it was moved to the Crown Point Moose Lodge and now, its new location at the Halls of St. George in Schererville.

"The yearly event is a gathering of approximately 80 retired and 20 active employees who share a similar dedication to keep the party going," Momcilovich added. "There is plenty of memorabilia for the men to reminisce of the good times and the bad and see themselves as they were when they started their careers as young men providing for their families."

Young and old are bound together by the machinist trade "that offered them a tough, but rewarding, career and enabled them to see the steel business evolve over the years," Momcilovich added.

Anyone wishing to attend next year's party should mark Oct. 24, 2014 on their calendar. Contact Momcilovich at (219) 399-5207 or MilanMomcilovich@arcelormittal.com.

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