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Barbara Jacobs: A Half Century of Service

Photo Credit: Member-provided photos.
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By Pete Levine Your Union Never Quit
Barbara Jacobs: A Half Century of Service

Forty-eight years. That’s how long Barbara Jacobs has been giving her all to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, a small maritime college located in Buzzards Bay in Cape Cod.

With the exception of a short hospitalization more than 20 years ago, in 1997, Jacobs has shown up to work every day focused solely on helping the students, or cadets, as they’re called at the academy. Her title, Clerk V of the Mail Distribution Center, doesn’t begin to describe the extent of what Jacobs does at the academy, nor her commitment to it.

“She’s the epitome of the word, ‘worker,’” says her friend and fellow AFSCME Local 1067 (Council 93) member Maria Cullen, who nominated Jacobs for a Never Quit Service Award. “She has a work ethic that’s a rarity today. She’s energized and happy every single day at work.”

Jacobs is a one-person hub of the student mail room. She chats with cadets while ensuring all their mail and parcels are handled correctly, often providing – at her own expense – the tape, staples or stamps that cadets occasionally forget. For many of the cadets, some of whom come from as far away as Panama and China, Jacobs has, for the past half century, been their cheerleader and friend.

“They love her. She knows almost all of the students,” says Cullen, who works in the International Programs Office. “You hear them thanking her all the time.”

Barbara Jacobs: A Half Century of Service

The volume of mail that Jacobs handles is tremendous. In addition to student mail, Jacobs collects, delivers and sends out all the university’s mail, packages and FedEx shipments. That can involve traipsing across a freezing winter campus twice a day through snow, hail, wind and rain to different buildings to assemble a tower of mail tubs. Then, she hauls them on a cart by hand back to the mail room.

Jacobs, 74, credits her tough Scottish-Yankee upbringing for her stamina. For her, these treks are just part of the job.

“I had a paper route when I was a kid,” recalls Jacobs. “You just did what was expected of you. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the expression, ‘That’s not my job.’ I like to think of us all as team players. We’re all paddling in the same direction.”

Not only is Jacobs the mail room’s main conductor, she’s also an informal booster for the school and its students.

“I say I have 1,600 surrogate kids. I love the cadets,” Jacobs says, talking up the school’s placement and recruitment record. “A lot of employers snap up our students,” she proclaims, describing the vaunted careers that many of the graduates will embark on – ship captains; deck officers; marine, environmental and facilities engineers, and others. While some of the cadets may set sail for the high seas when they graduate, for now, as students, they rely on Jacobs as a welcome constant.

A new home owner, Jacobs has no plans on retiring.

“The dirtiest word I know is debt,” the Buzzards Bay native says with a laugh. “I want to pay off my home. Then I’ll think about retiring.”

Nominate Someone for a Never Quit Award

Do you know a co-worker who goes above and beyond the call of duty?
Nominate them for an AFSCME Never Quit Service Award.