1. Never sick
Some people probably feel they deserve a medal for merely getting up and going to work every day, but only a few actually merit one. Take Deborah Ford, for example. This 64-year-old Detroit postal worker, who recently retired, didn't use a single sick day in all of her 44 years on the job. Not a single one! For doctor's appointments, she would take vacation days, and when she was feeling lousy she says she would just "shake it off." At the end of her dedicated career, Ford had amassed a sick-leave balance of 4,508 hours.
2. Going the distance
Unless you work from home, chances are you endure a less-than-pleasant commute. But none is likely as arduous as that of Dave Givens. In 2006 the Mariposa, Calif., resident earned the unenviable award for "America's Longest Commute" when tire company Midas set out to find the employee who trekked the most miles to work. From his ranch home in Mariposa, Givens drives 186 miles to his job at Cisco Systems, Inc., in San Jose. The electrical engineer has been making this 372-mile round trip, which equals a total of seven hours of driving, for 17 years. "I have a great job and my family loves the ranch where we live," Givens said. "So this is the only solution." His dedication to the horrendous commute earned Givens the grand prize of $10,000 and some much-needed gas money as well as an array of Midas maintenance services and products.
3. A life's work
Rose Syracuse Richardone "just loves to work," says Macy's senior vice president Robin Hall of the 92-year-old employee. Richardone retired from Macy's in September 2012 after working in a range of positions from her first job at the age of 17 in the accounts department — back when there weren't credit cards and customers would set aside money in the in-store bank to pay for items — to her final position within the parade and entertainment group. To honor her 70th year with the company a few years ago, Macy's management arranged for Richardone to cut the red ribbon that launched the iconic Thanksgiving parade. Had it not been for a broken hip, the diminutive employee might still be working today. "Life is good," she said. "You go on each day, you're happy where you're at. And people — bosses, supervisors — they appreciate you. And you stay."
4. Hardest working unemployed man
You may not know Justin Knapp, but you're likely familiar with his work. Knapp is a voluntary editor of Wikipedia, and last April the 30-year-old became the first person to complete 1 million edits on the massive online, open-source encyclopedia. Knapp registered as an editor in 2005 and now spends several hours per day combing, editing, and adding to Wikipedia articles. His edits can be as small as ensuring em dashes and en dashes are used properly or as substantial as building the most comprehensive George Orwell entry, which reportedly took about 100 hours. "Editing these projects is relaxing and rewarding," Knapp told Gizmodo. Knapp doesn't get paid for his work, however plentiful, but he manages to get by financially with odd jobs while he pursues his nursing degree at Indiana University. Ultimately he feels his diligence is for the greater good. "Far be it for me to say that it's an act of love to edit Wikipedia," he said. "But I really do feel like that it helps other human beings. That makes me feel good — knowing that somehow I can be a small part of helping someone who I'll never know."
5. Dedicated volunteer
Don Moss is the "Energizer Bunny of volunteers." As of 2010, the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center volunteer has clocked in more than 47,000 hours, setting a Guinness World Record for his time. For the last 28 years, Moss has worked at Wake Forest Monday through Thursday, 48 hours per week. The 63-year-old's dedication is a personal one. In 1980, Moss was in a freak accident that landed him at Wake Forest Baptist, where he spent three months in a coma with a major head injury. Doctors didn't think he would make it and, after he woke up, specialists said he would never walk again. But Moss defied all expectations and now, after being encouraged to volunteer during his rehabilitation stint, he's rarely idle. While working, Moss delivers letters to patients, helps out at the gift shop, and guides lost visitors to their destinations. And those free Fridays? Those are for his wife, he says: "That's my honey-do list day."
6. Hardest working mom
Dr. Helen Wright felt like she had it all — she loved her job as a headmistress at an exclusive British all-girls school, and she had time to enjoy her beautiful growing family. But one February morning in 2010, when Wright was pregnant with her third child, she went into labor. Within an hour she had given birth to the baby, a girl named Jessica, and by lunchtime, Wright was back at work, her newborn in tow. This was nothing new for her. She had never taken maternity leave with any of her children. Her second child was born on a Friday; Wright was back at work by Monday. Given the ongoing can-women-have-it-all debate, Wright says she wants to be a role model for her students to show them that they too can have a career and a family, quite literally, in the same space. The rarely trodden path of bringing your baby to work is, Wright says, the option more women should consider. "Most women have a choice of taking maternity leave or going back to work and having their babies looked after. Why can't there be a third way?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
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