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She held the same job for 58 years, never looked for another

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 1/14/2018 Maggie Gilroy, (Binghamton, N.Y.) Press & Sun Bulleti
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JOHNSON CITY, N.Y. — Mona Zipay was there almost from the beginning when her boss decided to become an independent insurance adjuster 1955.

Fifty-eight years later, she decided it was time to retire from Dorner Adjustment Co.

"I love what I did," said Zipay, 83, of Whitney Point, N.Y., who retired Dec. 29. "I still do. But it's time to stay home now."

The secretary has helped customers through natural disasters and fires, outlived boss John M. Dorner and remembers when women were not allowed to wear pants to work.

Not only has she used manual typewriters, electric typewriters and computers, but she's also adapted to a wave of technology so she could transcribe reports sent to insurers:

• Notes taken by hand in shorthand, which she learned in high school.

• Dictaphone machines with wax cylinders that could be reused after she shaved the cylinders in another machine.

• A Philips tape recorder plus a large-format Polaroid camera to photograph damage.

"When I stop and think of it, I don't know how we did it," Zipay said of the old technology. "In that span of time you can really see things, how they have progressed."

But what has served her well through the years has been her typing and customer-service skills, said MaryAnn Dorner, daughter-in-law of John Dorner.

"She's a phenomenal typist," MaryAnn Dorner said. "She's accurate, and she's fast."

She can transcribe as many as 30 dictations in one day.

She's professional on the phones, keeping an even temper when dealing with irate customers, said Patrick Dorner, who along with his brother Mike now heads the company that's located about 150 miles northwest of New York City near the New York-Pennsylvania border.

a woman sitting at a table with a birthday cake: Mona Zipay celebrated her last day Dec. 29, 2017, at Dorner Adjustment Co. in Johnson City, N.Y., with a retirement party. © Courtesy of Dorner Adjustment Co. Mona Zipay celebrated her last day Dec. 29, 2017, at Dorner Adjustment Co. in Johnson City, N.Y., with a retirement party.

"When the companies call, they don't want to listen to an answering machine," Patrick Dorner said. "But when they call, they get Mona and they always said how good it is."

Zipay has consoled many customers over the phone, a key quality when helping others recover from disasters such as theft or fire.

"They think insurance adjusters are going to cheat them, and you have to assure them that we are not and go the extra mile with them," Zipay said. "A few kind words do a lot."

Dorner Adjusting wasn't the only place Zipay has worked. She graduated from high school in 1951, taking business courses because she knew she would not be able to afford college and didn't want to work in a factory.

John Dorner lured her to his new company in 1955 from the General Adjustment Bureau in downtown Binghamton, N.Y., where they had worked together until he decided to become an independent agent.

 At Whitney Point High School, Zipay was taught to wear white gloves and a hat, never wear slacks and always wear stockings.

"We were not allowed to wear slacks to work," Zipay said. "You had to wear a dress. ... You just didn't go to work in slacks" even if the temperature was 15 degrees and snowing.

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Now, Zipay wears slacks but always dresses professionally.

a large brick building with grass in front of a house: John M. Dorner Adjustment Co. is located on 116 North Broad Street in Johnson City. © Maggie Gilroy / Staff photo John M. Dorner Adjustment Co. is located on 116 North Broad Street in Johnson City. "That was one of the things that impressed me about her," MaryAnn Dorner said. "She's always dressed up."

Throughout all 58 years at Dorner Adjustment, Zipay said she never looked for another job. When she graduated high school, jobs were not easy to find.

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"Once you got a job, you were grateful to have it," she said. "And I think you stayed there longer."

Later, as she helped Patrick Dorner, typing his book reports as he grew up, she felt like she had become part of the Dorner family.

"The work was the same. Wherever you worked was the same. We are like a family," Zipay said, tears welling up in her eyes. "It probably sounds ridiculous, but it just was a good place. They were always good to me."

Follow Maggie Gilroy on Twitter: @MaggieGilroy

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