The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

February 22, 2013

Title work ‘like a mystery’

Examiner retires after 47 years


DANVILLE — When she graduated from high school at age 18, Sandy Lister expected to take a couple of weeks off before she started a career. Instead, she found herself starting a job at Danville Abstract right away — and never looked back.

Lister, 65, retired from Vermilion County Title on Friday after 47 years of employment.

“I love the work,” said Lister, who started as a typist and retired as an examiner. “It’s like a mystery — what can I find (in the records)?”

Pat O’Shaughnessy, owner of the title company (formerly Danville Abstract), is amazed at Lister’s longevity, saying, “You don’t see that anymore.”

It’s going to be difficult to replace her, he said, adding, “How do you replace 47 years of knowledge?”

He’s been pleased with Lister as an employee, describing her as a hard worker. “She comes to work with a smile on her face and leaves with one,” he said.

Lister has seen a lot of changes over the years — including location and technology. But the work itself never changes.

A native of Danville, Lister moved to State Line, Ind., with her family when she was a child, and graduated from Seeger

Memorial High School in May 1966. She had applied for jobs as part of Senior Day, and then went on the senior class trip.

When she returned, she was surprised to receive a call from Danville Abstract, wanting her to start that Monday in a temporary position. Her original plan was to go to business college and become an accountant.

“I never thought I’d be there 15 years,” she said, and certainly not almost 50.

Lister started as a typist, using the “clunky” manual typewriters. The office later switched to electric typewriters, and then computers in 1999. With computers, she could examine documents more quickly.

She also did abstracts, or a history of the land, and had to compare different records.

The company began doing title insurance instead of abstracts after it became the Vermilion County Title Co.

One improvement is that the company is online with the Vermilion County Courthouse, making it easier to access some records.

Lister has worked at three sites. The abstract company was on West Main Street, next to what is now the city building; then it was located in the building now occupied by the Java Hut; and in January 1999, it moved to its current location in the 100 block of North Vermilion Street.

In 1997, O’Shaughnessy and Jill Kavanaugh bought the business, and it became a title company. O’Shaughnessy is the sole owner now.

Lister said her job involved searching records to make sure a person has a clear right to property. In the case of a death, she checked documents and wills, and tried to find the heir, if necessary.

As an examiner, she double-checked what the title searchers had done. In case of problems, she would alert the banks and attorneys. It also was her job to write the title insurance commitment that ensures a clean title — that is, no liens or claims against the property.

She always had the complicated cases, many that involved farms and acreage. It was a lot of responsibility.

Going through estate records was like a mystery or a puzzle, she said, as she followed all of the transactions — sometimes starting from more than 100 years ago.

“I love the work, I really do,” she said. “It’s always different. I try to figure out ways to make it come out good.”

In her retirement, Lister plans to spend time with her mother and do some traveling and reading.