Keetac employee calls it quits after 53 years

BOVEY, Minn. – Some people are good at leaving an impression. Celebrities, politicians, sports heroes … and even a long-time local machinist who recently retired from the U.S. Steel plant in Keewatin.

The legend

Phil Warwas has done his time. “Fifty-three years, three months, two weeks, and three days,” was precisely the information that the 73-year-old of Lawrence Township dictated on the span of employment at Keetac, which ended last August upon his retirement.

“It’s been a good ride,” said Warwas. “Somebody approached me once and said, ‘oh, you've got to be stupid to still be working.’ Well if he hated his job, he should have quit the first day.” He added that If you apply yourself and do your job, it was a pretty good place to work.

Along the way

Other feats set this 50-plus-year LCP member apart, including: Vietnam Veteran; U.S. Army, 25th Infantry Division, 1966-67. Warwas narrowly escaped being a casualty when a bullet struck his helmet. He still has that fragment today.

In his job, he contributed to the success of the company through the development and machining of a useful tool called an easy-out extractor.

But maybe most intriguing is what will likely keep him busy now. Dancing.

Listen to the music

Warwas is an entertaining man, indicated by his quick sense of humor and his talent on the dance floor.

“And, I intend to make more senior dances,” he adds. “I'm kind of noticed on the dance floor, not because of how I wiggle but for the things I know from two-step to tango.”

Warwas says he might be found most weekends at the Bridge Tavern in Crosby, shaking to the genre of classic country and working the “tango or cha-cha once in a while, depending on the mix.”

A busy future

Phil admitted he did not enter retirement with any desire to slow down; he’s busier now and in better shape that when he worked full-time.

“Now it seems like somebody always needs help somewhere,” he says. If Phil isn’t helping a friend, he’s hunting out West, cutting wood, or welding up his new plow truck. “And I find out, I've lost a little weight. I'm feeling better because of all the activity I've had on my feet.”

No place like home

Warwas enjoys his home on Lawrence Lake, north of Bovey, and plans to continue to use his mechanical skills in his own shop.

As far as living in northern Minnesota, Warwas, who grew up around Bemidji, says he isn’t planning on leaving.

“My kids have lived in Arizona for most of their lives … and I've gone down there to visit,” he said sincerely. “I wouldn't trade one good, big Minnesota snowstorm for the whole darn state.”

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