The plan was to meet his daughters and wife at the Coon Rapids American Legion for a meat raffle. But Dave Soucy knew something was not right when he drove into the parking lot.
Spotting his old car, which he had sold to his brother-in-law, and the new company vehicle of a friend, the Ramsey resident began to suspect something was up.
As he entered the legion’s banquet room, Soucy walked into his surprise 50th anniversary party.
Soucy was celebrating 50 years with the ABC Newspapers and Shopper April 19.
“I was very surprised,” said Soucy, who was greeted by current and former co-workers as well as long-time customers.
It was much better than a meat raffle, he said.
While there was no meat raffle at the legion, the night held lots of stories from the early days and accolades about the job Soucy has done over the years.
“When the name Dave Soucy is mentioned the remarks are, that’s one great guy,” said Marge Winkelman, chief operations officer and president of ECM Publishers.
From his early days as assistant foreman of the press room, former co-worker Bobby Cullinen told about his first couple of days on the press room.
Each day held a new disaster, including an incident with a Kentucky Fried Chicken dessert and the press, he was sure he was going to get fired, Cullinen said.
But Soucy gave him another chance and he worked for the company for a couple of years, he said.
Even his family told stories of Soucy’s dedication to ABC Newspapers.
One year Soucy got a call on Christmas that there was a squirrel loose in the newsroom and he left, said daughter Theresa Walsh.
While Soucy did not recall a squirrel in the newsroom on Christmas, there have been a lot of critter stories over his 50 years at the paper.
About three years ago, there was a family of squirrels living in part of the roof.
After seeing the mom and baby out wandering the lawn, Soucy climbed up on the roof to block their way back into the building.
What Soucy did not know there were more babies.
With the hole closed up, the young squirrels started running in the rafters and coming into the building through the ceiling.
“We had to have the pest control guy come out and live trap all of them,” Soucy said.
Once trapped, the babies were released on the lawn to reunite with their other family members.
“I was glad to see none of them died,” said Soucy, who is OK with gray squirrels.
Of course, there are also a few stories about squirrels who came into the office through open doors and Soucy’s wrangling techniques of herding them out the door.
The stories told during his April 19 party were great, “but some of them were embellished,” Soucy said.
Over the years Soucy has held many jobs at the paper and is currently the facilities manager.
As the facilities manager, Soucy oversees the ABC Newspaper building as well as the ABC Newspapers’ parent company ECM Publishers’ building and the Elk River Star newspaper facility.
“I love tackling the big projects,” Soucy said.
“I love it when current General Manager Tom Murray comes in and says ‘I have a project for you,’” he said.
Remodeling projects have kept Soucy busy, from the new bathroom facilities at the ABC Newspaper and correcting a leaky basement office at the Star.
But in 2004, Soucy and the ABC Newspaper staff lived through one of the biggest projects.
In October 2004, a local man experienced a medical situation and drove his van approximately 30 feet into the paper’s front office.
While the man survived after suffering an aortic aneurysm, the ABC Newspaper office was in need of a repair.
It was one of the largest projects he was involved in, Soucy said.
The project added two new offices and gave the front desk area a new modern look.
As ECM Publishers has consolidated graphics personnel from various locations to the Coon Rapids office, Soucy has over seen the office remodeling to accommodate the additional staff as well as remodeled offices for the newsroom and ad room staff over the years.
The night was the result of two months of planning and keeping a secret from Soucy, the man who knows everything that’s going on.
Soucy’s two daughters joined ABC Newspapers Office Manager Jill Donahue and Billing Coordinator Annette Christianson in planning the shindig.
Because Soucy is a humble person, the surprise party was the best way to go because he would have never went along with it otherwise, Donahue said.
Soucy’s wife Fern was not asked to help with the planning.
“We didn’t think we could trust her to keep the secret,” Donahue said.
But it was not easy for any of them to keep the secret from the man who knows everything.
“It got harder to keep the closer it got,” Donahue said.
On the day of the party, Donahue had to talk Soucy into going to Costco with her to get supplies for the office.
While the pair were out, the front office staff created the decorations and wrapped his monogrammed grilling set and coffee mug for the milestone celebration.
The best part of the evening was seeing the surprise on his face and watching Soucy scan the room to see who was there, Donahue said.
It was a surprise and his family is not that good at keeping secrets, Soucy said.
Seeing old co-workers and friends that he had not seen in long time was great, including former ECM Publisher and CEO Jeff Athmann and co-worker Clyde Schwanbeck, he said.
All of Soucy’s siblings, most of his in-laws and cousins were also able to make the party.
“It was amazing. And it takes a lot to get me excited,” Soucy said.
Seeing old friends and talking about the old days brought back the old printing systems, like melting lead to create printing plates, he said.
He was just a kid of 18 back then, Soucy said.
These days everything is digital, he said.
Now Soucy has his own office, which used to be the office of Arch Pease, ABC Newspaper owner until paper merged with ECM Publishers in 1989.
“I think it’s a trip to call Arch’s office as my own,” Soucy said.
While the party might have sounded like a retirement party, it was anything but.
“I’m not planning on retiring,” Soucy said.
As long as he can physically do the job, it continues to be fun and he feels wanted, Soucy said he will continue working for ABC Newspapers.
He loves being involved in the production of the hometown newspaper (the Anoka County Union) as well as the other papers produced here, including the Anoka County Shopper, Blaine-Spring Lake Park Life and Coon Rapids Herald as well as its delivery, Soucy said.
This is a really terrific company to work for and the owners and management have returned his hard work in-kind, he said.
Tammy Sakry is at [email protected]