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Retirement Takes Smerkar from Marble to Europe and Back in Mother, Daughter, Granddaughter Tour

Sunday, May 20, 2018 @ 12:05 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

SmerkarMARBLE, Pa. (EYT) – To absolutely no one’s surprise, Ann Smerkar has remained busy after retiring in February following a 47-year career at Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Marble.

(Photo: Ann Smerkar and daughter Erica Smerkar Moore in Europe.)

Ann and her husband Sam wanted “to have a little fun,” and so far, Ann has managed to visit Germany with her daughter to watch a granddaughter perform on the violin at concert halls in Europe.

Sam also retired a year earlier following 30 years at the North Clarion School District where he was the janitorial supervisor.  Sam also worked at Knox Glass Plant before it closed.

Now that both Sam and Ann are retired, they have plans to spend time with their three children and seven grandchildren.

“I loved my job, but it was time to retire,” Ann said. “I graduated from high school on a Sunday and started to work there the next day. The CEO at the time contacted me — I was friends with one of his daughters, and he told me the reason why he wanted me was because he saw my name all of the time in the newspaper, and I was always on the principal’s list, and when he saw that, he just knew I would be a good employee.”

Ann and Sam live in Marble within walking distance from St. Michael’s Church where their oldest daughter Samantha Schmader plays the church organ. Samantha, who lives in Fryburg with her husband and two children, has also been the elementary music teacher at North Clarion for the last 15 years.

Son Ryan is a plastics engineer in Ohio.

Daughter Erica Smerkar Moore lives in Buffalo, New York, where she is a doctor of physical therapy and has four, very musical kids.

Ann explains that her daughter Samantha is the more musical one, but her children are excelling in athletics.  On the other hand, Erica was always more interested in athletics, and her children are more musical.

It was Erica’s 14-year old daughter, Ava, who provided the reason for Ann and Erica to visit Germany, Saltsburg, Siena, and Prague.

“Ava plays the violin and belongs to the Greater Buffalo Youth Symphony,” Ann said.  ”Every four years they take them to Europe. This year she was performing in three different countries. It was beautiful.”

Even though Sam didn’t go on the trip, the couple is planning other vacations, but they’re not sure where yet – outside of their visits with children and grandchildren.

“The thing we want to do the most is be more of a part of our children and grandchildren’s lives.”

Ann admits she still visits the insurance office, and they all remain friends.

“I would love to tell the world about insurance because there are so many good things, but nobody ever sees that side of the insurance world. I definitely miss the people. We had a wonderful group of people, and we all got along very well.  They’ll be friends for life. Everybody works together when it’s a small business like that.”

“When I started there, it was a million dollar company, and when I left, it was a $13 million company. It was slow growth, but it was a positive slow growth.”

Ann had many different titles over the years at work, starting a typist and ending as office manager, vice president of underwriting, and board secretary. She has a property and casualty insurance license, and as an employee, she participated in educational seminars several times a year.

“One day I asked the CEO why a company like that stays in Marble,” Ann said.  ”(He explained) it might only be giving 13 people jobs, but it’s giving 13 people good jobs.  A lot of people drive by Farmers, and they don’t even recognize the company, and people used to say they thought it was a bank.”

Ann is probably one of the most positive people anyone could meet, and she doesn’t let much get in her way, including a brain aneurysm.

“I had a brain aneurysm 14 years ago, and I only missed two weeks of work. How did they discover it? I had the worst headache of my life. When I went to the doctor, she said my (brain) film was flat, and she knew it was bad….I was very blessed and lucky that my aneurysm was a small leak.”  

“I think some people would have preferred to take some more time off, but I was glad to go back to work.”

As much as Ann loves Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company, the Marble area, and St. Michael’s Church, ask her about her children and grandchildren.

“This is something really rare about our children in that they told me what they wanted to be, and they went to college for it, and they’re all working in their fields. We are blessed, and we raised three terrific kids even though I always worked.”

“My husband nor I went to college, but we made sure our children did.”

“Neither one of us had the opportunity to go to college, nor was it ever an option. I got a good job, and it was probably equal to any college-educated job, and I learned from the ground up. What’s really weird about it is, I loved it.”

She never even took that much time off when she had her three children.

“I worked when it wasn’t a popular thing for women to be working. We knew we wanted to put our kids through college and that was one of our main goals. We had a lot of family who would also help. With my husband’s shift work, he had them or I had them.  So, it worked.”

Ann asked her adult children if they ever felt she did not give them enough time, and they all answered “never.”

Their oldest granddaughter, Abby Schmader, is 20 and attends Grove City College and also runs cross-country after playing basketball at North Clarion. Asked what Abby would like to do after graduating, Ann said she’s talking about running a company someday. She has some good role models with her dad, Eric Schmader, who became CEO of Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company in 2018.

Meanwhile, grandmother Ann continues to run – literally – and is looking forward to the Fryburg Mayfest Fun Run 5K over the Memorial Weekend holiday and at the St. Joe’s Liberty 5K in Lucinda over the 4th of July holiday.

For many years, Ann was also Olaf (Frozen) in the annual Mayfest Parade with her realistic homemade costume.  The costume is in her attic, but it is available.    

Olaf Fryburg            

“This will be the first year I have not done it in seven years. They’ve kind of gone away from the Disney floats, but if they needed me, I would have done it.”
Another reason for leaving Olaf this year and “Let It Go” is Ann and Sam’s children and grandchildren are returning home for Mayfest.

“My children come home for the parade, and that’s another reason I’m not doing Olaf.  Everybody stays here for Mayfest weekend.  Even my husband’s whole family is coming for a big picnic.  With some forty people coming, they can’t all spend the night, so some of my husband’s sisters will have to stay at hotels.”

It has been a good life for Ann Smerkar.  Some would even say it has been a wonderful life.

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