From Shuttered Paper Mill to Welding School


This story caught my eye because of the location–  near and around Norfolk, Virginia which is where my family is from– Sedley (home of HUBS Peanuts!) to be precise: I still have some shirttail cousins around those parts, and much of the brickwork, including some at the HUBS peanuts factory, was done by my relatives.

I remember this mill in Franklin. I remember most the smell, and when I commented on it (if you’ve never smelled a paper mill think rotting cabbage) my cousin Curtis said, “It smells like money to me!”  The mill was where all the good jobs were in the area. 1,100 of them to be exact.

Anyway, this article is inspiring and a testament to the can-do nature of the folks in that area “Failure is not an option.”

ISLE OF WIGHT – At 59, Wallace Lewis assumed he was finished with school.

After 32 years operating a computerized band saw at International Paper Co.’s lumber mill, the Suffolk man figured he would retire in a few years. Then reality hit.

International Paper threw a kink into Lewis’s plans by shuttering its lumber mill in May 2009, forcing him into an early retirement and idling 1,100 workers. He was too young to tap his Social Security benefits, was struggling to pay his family’s mortgage and bills, and had too much empty time on his hands.


So from mill worker– some with 25 years or more experience– to electrician, plumbing and HVAC certification, and yes, WELDER! it is possible to teach “old” dogs new tricks.


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