When two feet of snow was dumped on Northern Michigan and the wind chill reached minus 35 degrees in late January, 65-year-old Morrison associate Gus Peterson needed to get to work. His car wouldn’t start, but that didn’t deter Peterson — he bundled up and walked more than one mile to get there.
Peterson dressed in layers, wearing a jacket under his heavy winter coat and donning a scarf and gloves en route to McLaren Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey, Mich. It took about 15 minutes to get from home to the hospital for his 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift where he prepares salads and food in the deli department for the café.
“I live close enough that I felt I could walk it,” Peterson recalls. While the trek only took 15 minutes, it seemed much longer. “The snow was blowing and steaming up my glasses. It felt like at least a half-hour in the wind and snow.”
Peterson grew up on Mackinaw Island on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where the average low temperature in February is 11 degrees, so he’s accustomed to going to work in nasty winter weather. “If you live here, it’s common to get a heavy snowfall and subzero temperatures a couple of times each winter,” he says.
He also knows Petoskey as well as anyone, so he’s able to navigate the snowy sidewalks and city streets as quickly as possible on his way to work. And his commitment to the food service business is unmatched. Before joining Morrison a little more than one year ago, he worked for 30 years at Jesperson’s, a well-known local restaurant that closed in 2017 after 114 years in business. Peterson was named the restaurant’s Employee of the Year for 30 consecutive years.
Peterson walked to work a second day in the bitter cold until Sally Blomquist, Director of Food and Nutrition Services, found out. She gave Peterson a $50 spot award for his dedication and arranged for transportation until warmer weather arrived and Peterson’s car was repaired.
Most other associates made it into work during the recent cold stretch. But five associates that live much further from the hospital stayed home, forcing Blomquist to help build trays for patients and take on other responsibilities. While she often makes contingency plans for staffing when severe winter weather is predicted, she knows most of her team – like Gus Peterson – will find a way to work.
“We have a lot of legacy employees, those who have worked here for 15, 20 years or more, and they will find a way to get here. But none of them walked to work like Gus did.”