Success

At 102, Indiana's oldest state employee says this is the secret to his long success

Bob Vollmer, seen in a 2016 photograph provided by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources at work. Voller, now 102 years old, plans to retire in February after after nearly six decades on the job.
Credit: John Maxwell/Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Bob Vollmer says he is finally ready to retire — at the age of 102. After working as a government land surveyor for six decades, Indiana's oldest state employee will report to work for the last time on Feb. 6.

Growing up in Washington, Indiana during the Great Depression, Vollmer says hard work was ingrained in him at a very young age.

"My mom and dad were hardworking people. They made sure I was always doing something," Vollmer tells CNBC Make It. "But during the depression, everybody worked. It wasn't just our family."

Vollmer, a World War II veteran, started at Indiana's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in 1963. For 57 years, Vollmer has traveled throughout the state collecting technical field data and confirming boundary lines for state-managed properties.

But over the last few months, he says he felt different and knew that it was his time to retire.

Bob Vollmer, seen in a 2016 photograph provided by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources at work. Voller, now 102 years old, plans to retire in February after after nearly six decades on the job.
Credit: John Maxwell/Indiana Department of Natural Resources

"I guess your body tells you when it's time to go," Vollmer told Indianapolis station WXIN-TV.

Vollmer says he credits some of his longevity to good genes: His mother, Anna Francis, lived to be 108.

"Doctors tell me that's one reason I'm still going. I got good lungs," he told WXIN-TV.

But Vollmer, who is a father of four, has four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, says that he also credits his long career (and life) to finding a great wife, eating well and most importantly, to his love of reading.

"I love to read. The more I read, the more I want to read," Vollmer tells CNBC Make It.

His love of books started at a young age, when his family lived across the street from a public library.

"I just studied all my life. I believe in studying and I believe in academic training to help keep me on," he says.

Over the years, Vollmer says he has accumulated more than 300 books of all genres, but prefers books on ancient history and on the United States Constitution.

He also thinks his all-time favorite book should be required reading to everyone — regardless of age.

Vollmer's No. 1 must-read is a 2010 nonfiction book called "Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788" by Pauline Maier. The book details the dramatic yearlong battle over the ratification of the Constitution. The road to ratification engendered heated debates among leaders such as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, as well as among everyday Americans who expressed their own visions for the country throughout the process.

"Men argued in taverns and coffeehouses; women joined the debate in their parlors; broadsides and newspaper stories advocated various points of view and excoriated others. In small towns and counties across the country, people read the document carefully and knew it well. Americans seized the opportunity to play a role in shaping the new nation," says a description of the book on the Santa Fe Public Library website.

While many books have been written about the country's Constitutional Conventions, this was the first major history book focusing on the process of ratification.

Vollmer says he's read it so many times that he has the Constitution memorized.

"When our government was formed, we had a revolution, and it's hard to believe that those colonies could get together because they were so different in their operations," Vollmer says.

The key lesson here, Vollmer says, is that everyone eventually came together to create our country and the Constitution, which he says is essential to learn to do now for the future of our democracy.

"We are a good country and we want to keep it that way. We got to work to keep it," Vollmer says.

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