By ERIN SANSON
Area Diesel Service Inc. celebrated its employees as well as its 50th anniversary on May 20.
Val Leefers founded Area Diesel in 1973, the first shop only 1,500 square feet. That shop grew quickly and now the original Area Diesel building has expanded into a 25,000 square foot building. The total operation, with locations in three cities in Illinois, Iowa and Indiana, is at 75,000 square foot, about 50 times larger than the first building, a fitting rate of growth for a business celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Three generations of Leefers now work at Area Diesel, Founder Val, daughter Viki, son Von and Tyler Leefers, Von’s son and Val’s grandson.
Besides the Leefers’ family, Area Diesel is made up of 49 employees across its multiple locations. This year, several of those employee-family members were awarded tokens of appreciation for their work and dedication to the company.
Those celebrating five years with Area Diesel are awarded a custom gold lapel pin and $250. This year, nine employees were granted their gold pins, being Jim Hufford, Jimmy Mathis, Dave Keiner, Lisa Killam, Ryan Koller, Woody Mathis, Jeff Slayback, Jill Smith and Steffan Wright.
Those with ten years at Area Diesel have a diamond placed on their pins and receive $500. This year those employees were, Corey Gracey, Rick Golob, Dusty Ribble, Carl Seago and Jeffery Zachary.
After 15 years, employees get another diamond added to their pins and receive $750. Celebrating thier 15 years with the company were Rich Hayes, Mallory Kahl, Viki Leefers, Dave Shea and Kathy Ward.
Corey Stallings was the only employee to celebrate 20 years with the company. Val Leefers said that Stallings began at the company as a Pump Technician and worked his way to becoming the Pleasant Hill, IA branch manager. Stallings received a third diamond for his pin and $1,000.
Laurie DeSpain celebrated 30 years with the company and received $1,500.
Gary Dahler has been with Area Diesel almost since its inception, celebrating 45 years of service. Dahler received $2,250 for his years working with the company.
Finally, the longest working employee was celebrated. Val Leefers, as the founder, has worked at Area Diesel Service Inc. for 50 years, beginning in 1973. As his son, Von, told the gathered crowd of friends, family and employees, Val would not be receiving a monetary bonus for his work. Von called his wife Linda and sister Viki to the stage and the three presented Val with a gold ring to mark 50 years of business.
Val began Area Diesel after working and learning at other area repair shops. In 1984, the Pleasant Hills, Iowa location opened and in early 2017, a third location opened in Indianapolis.
The 50th anniversary celebration was held at the Bates Building on the Macoupin County Fairgrounds. During the event it was announced by Fair Board President Kim Carney-Rhoades that in honor of Area Diesel’s 50 years in Macoupin County and being a Macoupin County Fair supporter for that entire time, the tractor pull track was to be renamed in the company’s honor.