Working at Ecumen Lakeshore in Duluth is literally a family affair for Cathy Firth. Four generations of her family have worked here — her mother, sisters, son and grandson.
The saga started out of necessity in 1975, when her mom, Gloria Martineau, now 82, had to find a job. Times were tough. Gloria was a single mother with six kids, and the family was struggling. She got a job at Ecumen Lakeshore — her first real job — as a cook.
That same year, to help out, Cathy took a part-time job at Ecumen Lakeshore. She was in college, had a small child herself, and was living at home. “I needed to make some money and needed flexible hours so I could take care of my son,” she recalls.
Cathy became a baker, working from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Soon she quit college and started working full-time. In 1977 she left Lakeshore to work at another community but came back the next year.
“I knew this was probably going to be my home,” Cathy says.
Her mom helped her care for her son while she worked, and all the kids pitched in during the 1980s to help support the family. Her three sisters had jobs at Lakeshore while they were in high school — Bridgette, as a nursing assistant, and Melissa and Thomasena, in food service.
Meanwhile, Cathy was getting more and more responsibility. In 1979, she had moved from dietary to housekeeping and in 1986 became the supervisor. In 1992, she also became head of laundry and in 2002 took on responsibility for the maintenance department.
By now, her son, Jason McClure, had grown up. In 1991 he started working at Lakeshore when he graduated from high school, working until 1996 when he graduated from college.
Jason is now a Duluth police officer, and his son, Cameron McClure — Cathy’s grandson — also has a Lakeshore job on his resume, where he worked over the summer in 2014.
“They loved working here,” Cathy says. Sometimes Jason and Cameron come by to have lunch with Cathy.
Now Cathy works in accounts payable, where she also does purchasing, transportation billing and takes care of ordering nursing supplies. “I wear a lot of hats,” she says.
In her almost 37-year career, she says she is most proud of being part of getting Lakeshore’s new campus up and running in 2005.
“I love Lakeshore, and this is my home,” Cathy says. “I hope to retire from here in a couple of years. I think Ecumen is a wonderful company. There have been a lot of families that have worked together here, but I don’t know of any families with four generations who have worked here,” Cathy says.