BY LARRY WEATHERFORD
DANVILLE — When Mary Eaton started working at the Danville Township offices, Ronald Reagan was in the White House, Time-Warner offered about a dozen cable channels in Danville, southbound traffic on Vermilion Street had to turn onto North Street because of the downtown mall, and much of the bookkeeping still was done on giant ledger sheets similar to those used when township government started in Illinois in 1851.
“Naturally, the biggest change I’ve seen take place has been with technology,” Eaton said. “A couple of years after I started, the first computer system was installed. There was a great big mainframe in a room upstairs, with little green-and-white screens on the desks.
“Each day, everyone would be notified that it was time to ‘save the information’ on a disk, and we would all have to close out our work, while it slowly copied the information. Of course, back then we thought it was a pretty fast process, compared to writing all that down on paper. All those disks were stored in a lock box at the bank.”
Eaton will retire April 11 — 30 years to the day since she started working in the office that serves Vermilion County’s most populated township. She started as a general assistance bookkeeper, and after two years became office manager, then comptroller. During her time on the job, she has served with four supervisors — William Richardson, Richard Wakeland, Roger Boen and Christina Thompson-Dietzen.
She has seen numerous other officeholders and employees come and go over the years. “It’s almost amazing to new employees,” she said, “when people who have worked here for 25 years tell the new people that they remember filling out their first withholding forms in my office, too.”
Thompson-Dietzen said, “Mary is definitely the go-to person when it comes to putting the budget together, understanding all the funding and programs, and it has really helped me to have someone with her knowledge and history right outside my office door.
“When I’ve had a question or needed help figuring out a problem, she’s always been right there. And not just for me, but for the other elected officials and employees. She’s always been very helpful to everyone. The township will miss her.”
Administrative Assistant Marilyn Woliung, who has worked alongside Eaton for 12 years, will step into Eaton’s role next month.
She said, “It’s amazing, I’ve worked in the office next to Mary for all this time, and until I started training for this job, I didn’t really realize how much she had to do every day. She’s been a great mentor, we’ve become good friends, and she’s helped me to be good at my current job. But I actually couldn’t fathom all the responsibility and attention to detail that she had to deal with in her own position. I’m sure glad she was here to train me.”
Eaton said, “I’ll miss the people here more than anything, and while I love working with figures, it’ll be nice to not suddenly wonder while relaxing or cooking dinner at home, ‘Did I get that report done?’”
She and her husband, Joe, who have been married for 47 years, plan to travel and visit with family. They have three married daughters, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
She also said, “I plan to play golf as often as I can.”
An open house in Mary Eaton’s honor will run 1-4 p.m. Thursday at Danville Township, 101 W. North St. Friends, relatives, current and former co-workers and elected officials are invited to stop in for punch, cake and coffee.