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In the Trenches: At Gamewell Mechanical, Shaw plus Reavis equals 91 years

By Maggie Blackwell
For the Salisbury Post

SALISBURY — The folks at Gamewell Mechanical are proud they have so many long-term employees. Company President Mike Heilig said 21 employees have more than 20 years on the job, six employees have more than 30 years and have more than 40 years of service at Gamewell.

Marvin Shaw and Gary Reavis are both in the “more than 40 years” category. They recently posted a picture on Facebook of themselves with the caption “91 years combined service @ Gamewell Mechanical!”

Reavis started working at Gamewell in 1972 and Shaw, in 1973. The two have followed different paths at the company, but they both have a passion for it.

Shaw started at Gamewell at twin brother Melvin’s suggestion. Shaw had been working at PPG but didn’t like the shift work.

As he was waiting for his application to be processed, the plant manager saw him and, thinking he was Melvin, asked him to take a truck to Bernhardt’s. Shaw stayed where he was. The plant manager came back through: “I thought I asked you to take that truck to Bernhardt’s?” Shaw finally explained that is was his twin brother who worked in the fleet.

He signed on as a custodian and shortly moved to loading trucks and moving trailers. Shaw is a car enthusiast with a passion for all sorts of vehicles. It wasn’t long until he said he wanted to drive trucks. He got his truck license and delivered materials for 35 years — to such faraway places as California, Oklahoma and Wilmington.

The company approached him about taking a management position, but he declined, enjoying the freedom that driving afforded him. “Finally, when my manager passed away about 12 years ago, I said, ‘OK.’” Today, he is transportation manager.

Shaw says he missed a lot of things when his kids were small because of his job. Today, he has time to indulge his passions: family, drag cars and Corvettes. He proudly notes that his Corvette club was featured last year in Salisbury the Magazine.

Reavis started at Gamewell in 1972. This September will mark his 46th anniversary with the company. After studying draftsmanship – “with a pencil,” he says — at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, he headed east and worked three years in the shipyard at Newport News, Virginia.

Shortly after starting at Gamewell, computer-aided design came about and Reavis didn’t waste time learning it. He became CAD manager in 1996.

When Gamewell built its new building on Jake Alexander Boulevard, he says, it was the “showcase of the Southeast.”

Reavis retired briefly in 2016 but in short order was invited to come back at reduced hours to train others.

Likewise, Shaw left once to work at a trucking company. His first day on the new job, he called owner Tomme Gamewell and asked if he had been replaced yet. “Tomme said no,” he chuckles, “and I said I’d be back in two hours.”

Gamewell Mechanical was started in 1966 by brothers Tomme and Joe Gamewell. The company focused on quality work and a quality team.

“I always thought Joe was the race car type and Tomme was the Suburban station wagon guy,” Shaw recalls.

Employees throughout the company recall the two Gamewells with love and respect.

“Tomme and Joe had guidelines for the company, including, ‘We look out for our people,’” Shaw remembers. “Mike Heilig carries on that tradition. We’re one great big family.”

Both men have had experience of that family support from work. Shaw developed an eye condition a few years back. When he returned to work, the staff had replaced his computer monitor with an ultra-large one and had changed his screen to white letters on a black field so he could read more easily.

Reavis’ wife fell a few years back and broke her left ankle. The injury required surgery, plates and screws. Gamewell sent out a laptop so Reavis could stay home and care for his wife during the day and connect at night to get work done.

Shaw also appreciates Gamewell’s focus on safety. “You can’t replace people,” he said.

“Joe and Tomme developed the company culture. I had a motorcycle. My manager had a motorcycle, and Joe asked to ride with us in the mountains,” Shaw said. “You get that? The owner wanted to go on motorcycles with us.”

“We bought our drag racing car in 1993. Joe had a building on Sherrill’s Ford Road and asked me, ‘Why don’t you keep it there? I’ve got all the tools and welding machines.’ He gave me the code. It was clean as could be. I kept it there every winter.”

When Joe Gamewell died, Summersett Funeral Home called Shaw and told him he has been designated an honorary pallbearer and was asked to say a few words at the funeral. Shaw shakes his head. “He remembered me.”

With a total of 91 years between them, the two men have seen plenty of changes at Gamewell: computers, mobile phones and diversity.

“The biggest change is the computerized method we get our files and specs today,” Reavis says. “We used to have a guy who drove to Charlotte to pick up a big roll of drawings and a book of specifications. Your estimating group would study the book and price the physical items. If you were awarded the project, sometimes the estimators became the drafters.

“Today, we download the specifications onto our server. The estimating group will work from that, then we print it ourselves. The changes the computers have brought around is the No. 1 difference.”

While in the past draftsmen were usually men, Reavis is proud he hired the first woman for the CAD department in 2015. “She’s smart and capable,” he beams.

Reavis says, “Even though I’m 72, it’s not difficult for me to get up and come to work. You’ve made so many friends and acquaintances working here, not just within Gamewell, but vendors and others. I run into them in the community. We know each other.”

“I’m just glad to be here,” Shaw says. “I’ve raised my family, sent my kids to school, had a good run here. I’m just glad I made 45 years.”

He thinks a minute, then adds: “I was thinking about retiring at the end of the year, but now I think I might go for another five years and make it an even 50. I think I can do it.”

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