ONTARIO -- The conversations at the former General Motors employee reunion Saturday were so powerful they drowned out Marshall Park’s sound system -- set at the highest volume.
The reunion, believed to be the largest gathering of the plant’s employees since its closure in 2010, invited former employees from the Mansfield Ontario plant to “meet again” at the park’s casual setting.
“Nothing fancy. Just a chance to see people that you maybe haven’t seen since the plant closed,” said James (Bo) Kovatch, who’s February Facebook post sparked the reunion.
He was shocked by the turnout. Before the 1 p.m. start, hundreds of former GM employees had already gathered at the park. Some sat at picnic tables and in lawn chairs, and others walked among the crowd, searching for familiar faces.
“This is beyond anything we could have imagined,” said Kovatch, who now lives near Cleveland and works at the Parma GM plant.
He spotted and pointed out a former coworker and friend who has since entered the nursing field and a couple who moved to Missouri in 2009, shortly after the plant announced its intention to close on June 1, 2009.
A quiet, rather reserved man, Kovatch didn’t say it out loud, but his smile said it all: The reunion meant the world to him.
Charles and Kara White drove 12 hours Friday from Smithville, Missouri, where they commute daily to the Kansas City, Kansas GM plant.
The couple, ages 62 and 54 respectively, are expecting their youngest daughter, who lives in Ohio, to deliver a new grandchild this weekend -- a perfect coincidence, as they planned to come to the GM reunion anyway.
“It’s like coming home to a family reunion. This plant is one-of-a-kind. We just always stuck together,” said Kara.
Charles agreed. He recalls countless fond memories of the Ontario stamping plant. He’s never found the same family-like environment at his new workplace.
“When you went to work you enjoyed it, and that was because of the people. They made it fun,” he said.
A former tool-and-die maker, Russ Harvey didn’t need to travel quite as far as the Whites for the Saturday event. However, like the Missouri couple, Harvey had long missed his former GM coworkers.
“I just don’t see that many people too often, not unless they come into the office for a knee or hip replacement,” said Harvey, who works locally as a nurse.
He was thankful for the nametags handed out at the check-in table, but was surprised to recognize many people without referencing their names.
“It’s just awesome to see everyone again,” he said.