The last log was cut at Simpson Lumber Co.’s landmark waterfront site in Shelton on Thursday morning, the log processed by double-cut sawyer Rick Glaser, who spent 44 years working for Simpson.
Glaser joined the company at 18 and leaves it as a 62-year-old man.
The 18-foot Douglas fir log took all of five minutes to cut, he said.
“It was sad and real emotional,” said Glaser, who added that his daughter, Amanda, also works at Simpson, and watched her father complete his job one last time.
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Glaser plans to retire, but his daughter, 34, will have to find work, he said.
Glaser and his daughter are among about 270 employees who lost their jobs after Simpson announced that it had sold its waterfront mill and one in Dayton, near Shelton, to Sierra Pacific Industries, a wood products company based in Northern California.
Sierra officials have said they plan to build a new mill on the waterfront site, but it’s not expected to be operational until 2017.
The job losses don’t stop with Simpson.
Olympic Panel Products of Shelton also will close after its plywood mill was sold to Swanson Group Manufacturing of Springfield, Oregon. The mill will shed about 240 jobs once it closes next year. Combined, the three mills, representing some of the biggest employers in Mason County, will end 500 jobs.
The Dayton mill is set to close next week; Sierra takes over at the end of the month.
“It’s the end of an era for the Simpson family and the community,” said Jim Barnett, 62, a production supervisor who spent 22 years at Simpson, including in Shelton.
Simpson will continue to operate its door plant in McCleary.
Barnett was on hand for Thursday’s last log and joined Glaser outside the Simpson gates to reflect on the moment. He said a Simpson sawmill has been on the waterfront for 90 years.
Barnett also praised the workers. Employees at the waterfront site knew the mill was for sale but kept on working with the same dedication, he said. As an example, on-the-job injury rates had fallen 80 percent since 2012, Barnett said.
“I think (the workers) appreciate the opportunities provided by the (Simpson) family,” he said.
Although workers knew the mill was for sale, they assumed the eventual buyer would continue to operate it, said Darrell Quimby, a 28-year employee at Simpson who will end his career in Simpson’s railroad division.
Quimby hopes to find a job operating equipment, adding that he’s better off than most because his wife is a state worker.
“Everyone has mixed emotions,” he said about the mill’s closure, “but I’m taking it like a trouper, trying to carry on and keep my chin up.”
“It’s a melancholy, surreal feeling for everyone,” Quimby added.