Steve Englert doesn’t look old enough to be one of only four employees who have worked 30 or more years for the city.
That’s because Steve is 48 and, relative to the clientele he most frequently serves, he’s a kid.
Steve started working for the city at the age of 18, after graduating from Pilgrim High School in the city’s Community Development Program. The position, which was paid for by a federal grant, evolved into a city job and Steve went on to jobs in the Personnel and the Police Departments. It wasn’t until he was assigned to work at Join Our Neighborhood and Help, the JONAH Center in Oakland Beach, that he found his home. JONAH is no longer operated as a city senior center and Steve now works at the Pilgrim Senior Center.
Center director Meg Underwood calls Steve “the glue,” who holds things together, as he answers the phone and knows who’s in the building, what’s happening and virtually the name of every member.
But Steve let one slip by him Tuesday.
While he was having lunch, his parents, Walter and Evelyn, and Mayor Scott Avedisian entered the center and were directed to the half of the lunchroom that was closed off. Along with center staff, they gathered around an impressive sheet cake bearing Steve’s name and the city’s seal. On cue, the group started singing, “For he’s a jolly good fellow,” as a dividing wall was pulled back to reveal the cake and the gathering of people.
Steve was across the room with a bewildered expression. This was certainly not on the day’s program. His parents and the mayor were there. Something had to be up.
Avedisian addressed the lunch crowd, informing them that Steve recently celebrated his 30th anniversary working for the city and wishing him the best.
“I think the world of you,” Underwood said, as Steve joined his parents and looked out at his extended family.
Evelyn said the job has been the world for her son. At the age of 12, Steve was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He was successfully treated but lost feeling in the right side of his body, a handicap that he manages with only occasional help. Steve has a limp and seniors frequently help him cut his meat at lunch.
“They are all so good to him,” said Evelyn. She also noted he frequently comes home with “the best cookies.”
Also, center members know Steve’s love for the Red Sox. He’s up on team news, stats and, like every devoted fan, can tell you how many days before the opening of spring training.
“That would be 23 days,” Steve said, without hesitation.
In addition to all he does at the center, Underwood also called Steve “the master of sarcasm,” although that somehow doesn’t seem to fit the profile.
Still on the topic, Underwood asked how the Sox would fare this year.
“Let me put it this way,” said Steve. “I’m not buying World Series tickets right away.”
And what about retirement, when might Steve be leaving the city’s employ?
All eyes focused on Steve.
“I haven’t thought of it. I’ll put in 50 years before I think of that,” he said. Then, after a brief pause, he added, “It’s nice to be the youngest and have more seniority than anyone else.”
The sarcasm was showing itself.