Retirement is something most people look forward to. According to a Gallup poll, the average American expects to retire at 65. Barbara Swope is not your average American – or Northfork Electric employee, for that matter.
Having just turned 83 years old last month, Barbara is celebrating 50 years of service to the cooperative and has no plans to retire any time soon. “I always say that I’ll quit when I die or get fired,” Swope said. “I just enjoy it too much!”
The youngest of six children, Barbara was born in Webb, Oklahoma on May 2, 1935. She grew up and attended school in the small community of Vici. Later at the age of 19, she would meet the love of her life.
“I met my husband, Leo, at the Arnett dance,” Swope said. “We later married on October 23, 1954 and grew our family with a daughter, Marla Kay, and a son, David Neil. We were also blessed with a grandson, Chance.”
In the beginning of their marriage, Barbara stayed home with her kids while also caring for other children in the community. Leo worked as a lineman at Northfork Electric. It was this connection to the co-op that later provided Barbara with a job opportunity at NFEC.
“In the beginning, I was hired to collect the light bills and answer the telephone,” Swope said. “I eventually started dispatching, and I would get a lot of late night calls to report outages at my house before I got a radio.”
Even though Barbara’s current job functions are now primarily being a billing clerk, she still goes out of her way to help members with other service issues. “I still have a few even now that call me on my cell phone to report outages or ask questions about things,” Swope said. “It’s okay, because everyone has always been so nice.”
During her career, Barbara has seen many changes at the cooperative, specifically regarding technology. Although she appreciates the progress made and views it as beneficial, she’s honest about her limited knowledge of it.
“I’m no computer whiz or even a decent beginner,” Swope said. “When anything goes wrong with my phone, I tell them to take it up to the pre-k class at the school. Those little boogers could work on it and fix it!”
When asked what she likes most about the job that she has been devoted to for 50 years, her answer is simple and honest. “I just really enjoy meeting and talking to the members and the employees,” Swope said. “Also, the management staff has always been real special, real close, real nice. They’re a good bunch.”
Barbara’s character and kind smile have made her the go-to representative at the cooperative. Many of the the members that she has come into contact with over the years would quickly call her a trusted friend.
“Barbara and her husband, Leo, were the face of NFEC for Roger Mills County, specifically the Reydon and Durham communities,” Scott Copeland, NFEC General Manager, said. “When the members needed anything, they didn’t call Northfork, they called Barb and Leo.”
Barbara’s bond with others extends beyond the cooperative’s membership. She connects personally with the co-op’s employees, regardless of age or title or years of service. She knows employees’ names and greets everyone with a smile.
“I remember coming into work and beginning to meet everybody. They were all good people, but there were a few that stood out that as soon as you met them you just felt like you were a part of their group or family. For me, Barb was one of those people,” Copeland said. “She immediately accepted me and took me in and whether she knew it or not, she taught me a lot just by watching her in how to take care of people.”