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2 long-time insurance agents in Albion to retire Dec. 22

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 December 2015 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Roz Starkweather, left, and Sharon Midea, who have each worked nearly a half century in the insurance business, will both retire later this year. They work for Albion Agencies on Main Street.

ALBION – Two insurance agents in Albion have each spent nearly a half century in the business, helping to write policies for home owners, cars, motorcycles, businesses, farms and more.

Roz Starkweather and Sharon Midea have experienced big changes in the industry with the utilization of computers and a shrinking number of insurance carriers.

The two women are thankful for jobs that turned into long careers, allowing them to stay close to home with their families and also connect with so many customers.

“It’s nice to work in town and only have to drive three-tenths of a mile to work,” Midea said.

Both she and Starkweather will retire at the end of the year with their last day in the office on Dec. 22. They are both long-time employees at Albion Agencies. Midea started there in 1970. She handles most of the commercial accounts and is a certified insurance counselor. Starkweather started in insurance when she was in high school in Batavia.

“I started out at 17 and I didn’t know it would be my life work,” Roz said.

She worked for the J.R. Holt agency in Batavia, her hometown. She moved to Albion with her late husband Duane so he could run a gas station at the corner of Hamilton and West Avenue, the current site for Avanti’s. The couple raised three children in Albion.

Roz started working for the former Paganelli Agencies (where Snell Realtors is located). Roz said the insurance job was ideal when she had young kids in school. She would start the workday around 10 and be home when the kids were off the school bus at 3:30.

Starkweather worked at Paganelli’s for 20 years. She would often call Midea when Starkweather was looking for advice on how to handle a commercial account.

That has been typical of the insurance agents in town, the two said. They will call each other. It’s not a competition.

“It’s never been cutthroat,” Midea said.

Midea grew up in Perry, Wyoming County. Her husband Ben was hired as a funeral director at Merrill-Grinnell Funeral Homes, bringing the family to Albion. Sharon was working in the office for the former Bemis Bag manufacturing company in Albion (now the site of Environmental Construction Group across from Hospice of Orleans).

Mr. Midea saw Paul Haines, owner of Albion Agencies, and heard Mrs. Midea was looking for a job. That was in 1970. She has been a dedicated employee for 45 years. She said the insurance business “was overwhelming in the beginning.”

She started in claims, and there were reams of paperwork, “a lot of forms and carbon copies,” Midea said.

But she stuck with it, and learned many of facets of the business, becoming a licensed insurance agent and broker.

She remembers when Chris Haines joined the business out of college in the 1980s. Chris pushed to have the office computerized and for staff to have regular training.

“He’s been very progressive,” Starkweather said.

When she arrived at Albion Agencies in 1994, she had little experience with computers.

“I didn’t know how to turn it on,” she said about her office computer. “I still have my wars with my computer.”

But she is a convert to the technology. She can easily research issues and retrieve files and information.

“You used to have to go to big file cabinets,” she said. “There were tons of file cabinets. Now you hardly ever have to go to the file cabinet because it’s all on computers.”

The two women have put off retirement in recent years, opting for continuing education classes every two years.

Both Starkweather and Midea say the time is right to end their careers. Midea plans to spend seven months a year in Florida with her husband. The two will spend the rest of the year in an RV.

“This has been a great place to work,” she said. “That is why neither of us have left. We’re family.”

Starkweather said she is excited about the next phase of her life, but she will miss her many customers.

“Customer service is very, very important,” she said. “I babied my customers.”

Albion Agencies will have a retirement open house for community members to stop by on Friday to see Starkweather and Midea from 1 to 4 p.m. The office is located at 30 North Main St.