More than 160 retirees of O&G Industries demonstrated their pride for their former longtime employer by attending a reunion at Elk's Pond on Guerdat Road.
One of them was James A. Savanella, 83, who now splits his time living in Harwinton and Arizona. He said he worked for O&G for 41 years performing an assortment of jobs before retiring 18 years ago as an assistant vice president.
Savanella, a former Harwinton selectman, said he gave up his own grating and landscaping business in his early 20s when O&G asked him to work for it after the Flood of '55. There was plenty of work as many roads and bridges needed to be rebuilt.
Savanella said he liked the work as well as his co-workers and bosses. He also enjoyed experiencing the growth of the company from road construction to building construction.
"They got a passion," he said of the family-run business. "They used to know everybody and they were always there when you needed them. They weren't afraid to get in there and work and you got to respect that."
At age 74 and after 52 years of employment, Tony Damiano of Thomaston is still working for O&G. His son, Joey, has been working for O&G since 1978; his son-in-law, Steve Walker, since the mid-1980s; and his grandson, Daniel, for the last 12 or 13 years. His father also worked there as a mason.
So why have they worked for O&G for so long?
"They have a lot of respect for their people," Damiano said. "They treat everybody decently. I think it's what the founders instilled into their offspring, starting with Andrew."
O&G was founded in 1923 by Andrew Onegila and Flaviano Gervasini. They started with two trucks and a steamroller, according to a written history compiled by the company.
As O&G began to build more roads, it developed a network of quarries, concrete and asphalt plants throughout Connecticut and New York. The first quarry opened in Woodbury in the 1930s and O&G now has more than a dozen.
In 1960, O&G completed its first building project. Today, the company has overseen the construction of hundreds of schools, high-rise office buildings, industrial projects, health care facilities, sports complexes, environmental projects and power plants.
The third generation of Oneglias run the company now, with the fourth generation taking key leadership roles.
The idea behind the reunion belongs to Barbara Buys, whose husband, Billy, worked for O&G for 40 years. She said they were at a wake in December for a former O&G employee and she noted how many of the attendees who were also retired O&G employees were enjoying talking with one another, despite the sad occasion.
So she suggested the company hold a reunion while many of the retirees are still alive and can truly enjoy each other's company.
One of the organizers, Tracy McKeon of Torrington, worked for O&G for 30 years, and her husband, Gene, for 50. She said co-workers became like family because of the loyalty people held for their employer.
"Back in the day, people worked the same job for their whole career," McKeon said. "Today, five years is a long time."
O&G Vice Chairman Raymond R. Oneglia, part of the third generation, thanked both past and present employees for their "dedication, expertise and hard work."
The company, headquartered at 122 Wall St., employs more than 900 people and generates $500 million in volume per year.