As he approaches his 89th birthday, Ron Palacz knows he could have stopped working long ago.
Palacz has been designing packages at Armour Packaging Technology in Itasca since October 1996. He did try retiring, but it didn't suit the Hoffman Estates resident, who will turn 89 in September.
"I have friends my age, and they can tell me what's on TV, but they can't keep a conversation [going]," Palacz said. "I don't want to be just reading a TV guide and tell you what is on TV, or what I watched last night."
Palacz still uses a ruler and X-Acto knife to create his designs. He refuses to use a computer.
He has been involved in the packaging business since the late 1950s and early 1960s. He has a skill that comes in handy in the business.
"I could visualize something before I even see it," he said. "I would have it in my mind already before I even put pencil to paper."
He keeps a pad of paper at his nightstand for when he gets an idea in the middle of the night. Palacz has stopped keeping count of how many different packages he has designed for the company.
A book that he put together of his designs stops at the year 2007.
"I put down what it was for, who the customer was, what it was made from, the size – things like that," Palacz said.
From 1996 to 2007, he designed more than 1,200 packages for Armour Packaging. When designing a package, he tries to take into consideration as many factors as he can.
"You look at the weight factor, ease of handling and ease of manufacturing," Palacz said.
He has been married to his wife, Betty, for 64 years. Around the age of 85, she stopped letting him go onto their roof to clean their gutters.
General Manager Adam Armour of Wheaton said Palacz remains a hard worker.
"He's like an everyday worker," Armour said. "He's not egotistical at all. One of his phrases is that he puts his pants on just like everybody else does. He's got a job here as long as he wants. He's got a great attitude and a great work ethic."
Palacz is the oldest worker at the company and an inspiration to the other workers, he said.
"His productivity hasn't slowed either," Armour said. "If we need something done quickly, he'll come in when he needs to."
Palacz said he doesn't think he will ever retire.
"My purpose right now is to stay healthy and stick around for as long as I possibly can," he said. "It's a joy working here."