MANSFIELD — Dan Galat isn’t one to stay idle.
The 85-year-old Mansfield man has a history of keeping busy, dating back to his childhood and adolescence when he worked at his father’s grocery store.
“When I was six years old, I wanted to go and be with my dad, so he would have me pack meat in the cart, sweep and do chores,” he said. “I always liked to be with him, and consequently, he taught me a lot of things about the grocery store.”
The store, which included a meat market, was called Copley Road Supermarket, formerly located on Copley Road in Akron.
“I worked every moment that I could other than going to school,” he said. “I would go in before school and would work for an hour or so, then walk to school — it was close enough and we didn’t have school buses back then — and then at lunchtime I would walk back to the store, have a bite to eat, and then go back to school in the afternoon,” he said.
“I enjoyed doing what I did, and to be with my dad.”
As he grew, he took on more responsibility at the store. By the time he was a young teen, he could cut meat.
When he was 17 years old, his father sold the store and bought a farm in Litchfield in Medina County. Galat helped out at the farm and he also began learning the bricklaying trade.
About five years later (1954), he moved to Mansfield for a bricklaying job, specifically the construction of the former GM plant.
Galat met his wife of 62 years, Lois, in Mansfield. The couple married in 1957 while he was on furlough from the military. He was drafted into the Army in 1956, serving just short of two years.
Galat said he had an “unusual” job in the military.
“When they found out I could cut meat, I spent all my time cutting meat in the military, so I never had to go overseas,” he said.
He prepared meat that was sold in the commissary, a huge grocery store that serviced three military bases in El Paso, Texas, where Galat was stationed at the time. He worked alongside civilians and some other servicemen.
When he was discharged in 1958, he resumed bricklaying and started building homes in Litchfield. In 1964, he and his family moved back to Mansfield, where he started a construction business, which he owned and operated until 2017.
He and his wife, whom he called a “gem,” have seven children, 30 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.
After Galat retired, he said he grew “tired of sitting around.”
“I told my wife I would like to get a job,” he said. “We’re planning to go to Israel in November, Lord willing, and I told her I’m going to get a job and hopefully earn enough money to go to Israel.”
After searching around town, he landed his dream job at Wilging’s Meats on Lexington Avenue.
Getting back into meat cutting is “just like riding a bike” for Galat, who learned the trade from his father.
Now, over a month in, Galat said it’s nice to get back to work, especially at Wilging's Meats where the meat isn't pre-packaged and everything is sold right out of the meat counter.
Philip Wilging, owner of Wilging’s Meats, said his grandfather, who started Wilging’s Meats in 1919, used to purchase pork products for his butcher shop from Galat Meat Packing (opened in 1917 by Galat’s father and uncle).
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“Anybody that wants to work I can put to work and he’s just been great for it,” Wilging said of Galat. “He’s enjoying it and I’m enjoying it.”
Galat said he works about 30-32 hours a week.
“I’m tired when I get done,” he said with a laugh.
But he’s grateful for the opportunity, as well as the ability to keep doing what he enjoys.
“I take it as a gift from God,” he said. “There aren’t many people my age that are in good health, and I take (being healthy) as an extra blessing.”