FORT DRUM, N.Y. (May 22, 2020) -- After a federal career spanning three decades at Fort Drum, Randy Sitterly was ready to settle into retirement quietly – not that he had much of a choice. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic would override any plans for an office party, farewell speeches or sendoff of any kind.
His colleagues at the Network Enterprise Center (NEC) would disagree.
So when a long convoy of cars passed by Sitterly’s quiet Watertown neighborhood on May 21, he was shocked – and a little choked up – to see the smiling faces of co-workers, friends and family members waving signs, cheering, honking horns and handing him farewell gifts.
“I am truly overwhelmed,” he said. “I don’t know how they pulled this off.”
Kelli Rinard, an information technology specialist at NEC, helped to organize the parade.
“We thought this would be a nice way to show our appreciation for all that Randy has done and that it hasn’t gone unnoticed,” she said. “Even though we can’t do a formal ceremony like we usually would do, we wanted to make sure that he knew that we appreciated him and we are going to miss him.”
She said that Sitterly has been involved in many special projects throughout his career at NEC, having supported the transformation and expansion of Fort Drum, numerous 10th Mountain Division (LI) deployments and organizational realignments. Sitterly retired as the Business Operations Branch chief.
Rinard said that he will be remembered for his fun personality.
“I’ll always remember him for, and miss, his goofiness and his harmonica,” she said. “Every afternoon we could hear him playing a tune for all of us.”
Chris Brown, NEC Business Management Branch chief, arranged for a billboard truck to lead the drive-by parade, which scrolled a series of congratulatory messages and photos of Sitterly. Brown said that the original, pre-pandemic, plan was to reserve a ballroom at the Commons and host a more traditional retirement party.
“This is just a great thing to do, with all the crazy things we are dealing with because of COVID-19,” he said.
Sitterly’s family was part of the ruse to keep him unaware of the retirement parade. His daughter, Kayla Gardner, joined dozens of fellow well-wishers at a nearby parking lot that served as the staging area, and she was amazed by the turnout.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “He really deserves this because he’s the hardest-working man I know. To see all of this support will mean so much to him, because he didn’t think anyone was planning anything for him.”
Sitterly said that he has attended and helped to organize retirement parties on post. When he began planning his retirement a year ago, that was the farewell he imagined. The reality exceeded all expectations.
“I spent 34 years at Fort Drum, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “People were saying to me that it’s too bad I couldn’t have a retirement ceremony. But in these times, with everything that is going on, I said that it isn’t about me. It’s about keeping people safe and healthy.