Farmers Life office on Mercer Island

Half a century; a whole career

MERCER ISLAND — In the fall of 1966, the Baltimore Orioles won their first World Series, the popular television series Star Trek debuted, and the Vietnam War weighed heavy on American minds. And a young woman named Gwen Waterhouse started her career at Farmers New World Life Insurance Company on Mercer Island in Washington.

Last week, Gwen celebrated her 50th anniversary as a Farmers employee, one of only five employees to reach that milestone in the company’s history. She will retire this December.

Originally from Mississippi, Gwen and her husband Ron joined his family in the Seattle area after he left military service in September of 1966. Soon after, Gwen was hired as a policy file clerk, back when paper applications were received manually and processed by vacuum tubes and punch card technology.

Gwen spent 16 years in the original Mercer Island location and was excited to move to the new, modern office building on 77th Ave. in 1982. “Moving into the new building made it possible for everyone to be under one roof,” said Waterhouse. “It seemed so big — going from one floor to five.”

In 1977 Farmers used a day and an evening shift because there wasn’t enough room to have everyone on board during the day. Gwen worked the evening shift when her sons were young so she could spend more time with them, and continued to work the evening shift in the new building until 1984. “There were two of us that continued the evening shift, we were on two separate floors and met for our lunch break each evening,” she recalled.

Since her first role, Gwen has held at least 10 different positions. She joined IT in 1991 and is currently a business analyst, working with the IT and operations departments.

Gwen has been an avid walker for many years and participates in “Volksmarches,” organized non-competitive walks held around the country. She’s walked in hundreds of local events, including some in Olympia, Portland, Vancouver, Whidbey Island and Victoria BC.

She also volunteers at her church, and is an active member of the Farmers Life Employee Community Outreach committee. She volunteered for March of Dimes walks for many years, and has participated in the Mercer Island Half Marathon for the past five years. She will continue to help out at that event because it supports a cause she cares about personally — her father died of colon cancer.

“My favorite part of working for Farmers has been the opportunities offered and the people who brought me out of my shell since I was very shy,” said Gwen. “I’m proud of my longevity and feeling that I have been able to contribute to the growth of the company.”

“Even after 50 years, Gwen is still making a contribution to the organization. Gwen is the Lead Business Analyst on a project to implement revised commission rates for our Life agents. Not only will it be implemented on time but will be done with outstanding quality. Gwen continues to be a valued member of our team and no doubt will be missed.” ~ Douglas Evers, Director IT Operational Support

“I’ve known Gwen for 38 years and have worked with her in IT for the last 15 years. Gwen is always joyful and has a great sense of humor. I have thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to work with Gwen and she will be greatly missed. I wish her well in this next chapter in her life.” ~ Tracy Wofford, IT Business Analyst.

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