In 1980 11-year-old Paul Gawronski joined his stepfather Jim Farthing and mom Nancy for a planned open house at Ford Buffalo Stamping Plant in Hamburg New York.
Both his stepdad, an hourly team member and step uncle Wayne ‘Red” Farthing, a MP&L Superintendent, worked at the plant. During the open house, the young Paul Gawronski was amazed with all the machinery that occupied the plant floor. To the 11-year-old, the place was larger than he could ever imagine.
Paul, who loved to spend time at his grandfather’s bike shop, was always interested in machines that had complicated moving parts. He was intrigued on how parts work together to achieve a purpose.
In 1987, while still a senior at St. Mary’s High School in Lancaster, Paul was hired at Buffalo Stamping Plant as a part-time hourly employee. He worked Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Before Paul’s first day on the job, his stepdad Jim Farthing sat him down and explained how important it was that he focus on the job and the opportunities that this job can provide.
Excited and nervous about the opportunity, Paul was determined to make both his stepdad and uncle proud. Paul learned early that new employees often had to pay their dues by working some of the more difficult jobs. Paul was no exception. His first assignment was the Mustang pan gun line. The line had over 50 team members working together to manually assemble a floor pan. As each member of the line hand welded the pan, they also had to push the heavy assembly to the next workstation along these metal slide bars.
The Herd talked to many of the retirees that were assigned to that line. They will tell you that handling the gun was very difficult for a new employee the first several months. One former retiree told us that it was like wrestling an alligator for eight hours. Though several would quit early on, many eventually learned how to handle the welding gun. Another retiree shared that “it became tolerable, never comfortable, just tolerable.”
Today hanging weld guns are high tech and ergonomically designed to fit the operator. Back then, not so much.
After graduating from high school, Paul attended and graduated from college with a business degree. In 1989 Paul received and accepted an opportunity to work full time at BSP. One year later, after taking the apprenticeship test, Paul received the wonderful news that he was accepted into the BSP’s T&D apprenticeship program. One year later Paul tied the knot with his beautiful sweetheart Melissa, who he met while they both worked at a convenience store. At 23 years old, Paul subcontracted as well as built the very same home he shares with his wife and daughter Megan today in Colden, New York.
In 1995, Paul proudly received his journeyman’s card. Soon he was on the floor working in areas that included tryout, blanker and transfer presses. In 2001, Paul received a call one morning while asleep after working the midnight shift. The message was for him to call the plant regarding an open process engineering salary position. Paul never gave a salary position any thought, but this was an opportunity to make a bigger difference while taking on a new challenge. Several weeks later, Paul accepted the position as a process engineer. Twenty years later and after nine different job titles, Paul is now Buffalo Stamping Plant’s Metal Assembly Area Manager.
Paul admits that there were times when the road was difficult. Balancing home and work can be a challenge. Paul’s 23-year-old daughter Megan has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is a complex developmental condition that involves challenges in social interaction, speech and nonverbal communication. Her disorder drives Paul & his wife Melissa to do whatever it takes to focus on her health and happiness, from getting her the best medical attention to a simple game of tennis with their precious daughter.
Paul doesn’t know how he would have made it this far without the support of his dear wife Melissa. Melissa has been the rock in the Gawronski family. Not only has she looked after their daughter Megan, but she also took on added family responsibilities during times of demanding work schedules. Melissa understood that Paul had responsibilities at the plant but at the same time knew that being with his family will always be his number one priority.
Paul’s career with Ford Motor Company is a great example on how the company will give everyone an opportunity to reach their goals.
Paul adds that “I never thought that when I walked into this building as an 18-year-old part-timer that I would be sitting at this desk”
Well Paul you did it, congratulations!
We’re guessing that your hard work and dedication had something to do with it…