Q: How do you improve upon retirement?
A: By receiving the Hormel Foods Pride of the Jersey award days before the big event.
Hormel Foods team members seem to understand that well, so while partner Larry Letson was packing up his office at Silgan Containers and making the last of his calls to the Corporate Office’s R&D and engineering areas, the Austin (Minn.) Plant and Progressive Processing, there was a special surprise in the works.
It came at the hands of the Grocery Products team, along with Plant Manager Clint Walters and others at the Austin Plant. They’ve worked with Larry for nearly 10 years, benefiting from his commitment to keeping Hormel Foods products safe for consumers.
“In my two-and-a-half years back in the Grocery Products department, Larry has helped us through several confounding issues and has had a sense of urgency no matter how small the issue,” said Brice Siebe, Grocery Products lead.
Though Larry is not a Hormel Foods employee, that detail never kept him from living the culture of the company he said he was “blessed to work with.”
“He is the epitome of Building Bridges and Creating Solutions that help us Drive Results we need to continuously improve. Whether it’s sifting through spreadsheets of data and reams of seam teardowns to try and identify a false seam issue that was sporadic at best or giving hours of double-seam training to countless operators and managers, Larry has been with us every step of the way, Brice said.
We always worked as partners on things. They were fantastic people to work with.Larry Letson
Larry retired Feb. 28, 2019, but receiving the jersey is still top of mind. “I’m the first outside person ever to get it from the plant. It’s quite an honor,” he said.
Not only did Larry build a successful career in product packaging, he was educated for one at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. He was on track to earn a degree in construction management, but a course in packaging changed all that. “I decided that was the way to go,” he said.
Larry took a job in can-making at Carnation. When Nestle sold the can-making division, it developed into Silgan, Larry’s employer of 33 years. He became an expert in double seams and every other aspect of canning, and he didn’t stop there. He imparted his knowledge to other Hormel Foods team members daily and through classes, some of which he still teaches at the Austin Plant and beyond, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“It took a team,” he said. “The Hormel Foods people need to focus on producing the food. I said, ‘Let me make sure it’s packaged properly,’” he said.
That attitude and commitment are exactly what Clint meant when he called the relationship with Larry “a true partnership” that allowed all the players to “Create Solutions together.”
“We always worked as partners on things. They were fantastic people to work with. I was pretty lucky that way.”