Aggie Rochwick, Laundry Service, Business Services
Aggie Rochwick’s first job was picking cotton in Arkansas, where she grew up. Her second job was in University of Iowa Laundry Services, where she has worked on and off for 41 years. It’s a job she calls fast-paced and satisfying—and a breeze compared to working in the cotton fields.
Laundry Service, located south of the Oakdale Research Campus, serves 127 University customers, including UI Hospitals and Clinics, various health sciences departments, the Iowa Memorial Union, University Housing, and others. Laundry processes an average 23,000 pounds of textiles each day, from hospital linens and uniforms to custodial mops and doormats.
Petite and fiery, Rochwick has handled millions of pounds of the textiles over the years. She’s also performed every production task in the plant and trained countless new employees. Rochwick recently sat down with fyi to talk about her devotion to the job, Laundry Service's team-centered approach, and her passion for all things John Wayne.
What’s a typical day like in Laundry Service?
I work on the uniform side, where we mainly handle doctor’s coats and custodian uniforms. We also have rental property that goes to the Marengo Hospital and the dialysis center. Every day is different. Monday, for example, you get what we call “second run,” which is the uniforms for the maintenance department. We have to get them out for the driver by 8 a.m. In the meantime, we’ve also got flatwork (items that don’t need pressing) coming from the Dental Building that have to be checked in. When we get our own work caught up, then we help the production side, where they fold and dry, and that kind of stuff.
Sometimes we can be really, really busy. You think you’ll never get done. But that’s what I like about the job—you’re constantly moving. Yes, you have time to say a few words to your co-workers. But most of the time, everyone is at their own station. Even though we all have our own stations to work at, we’re all a team. It takes everyone to get the job done.
What would people be surprised to know about Laundry Service?
When most people think of laundry, they think of little Maytags. They don’t realize how big everything is out here. I think people on campus know we’re here, and know that if they call us and say, "We need pillowcases," that we’re going to get it done right away. We’re behind the scenes, but we’re a very important part of the University.
You’ve worked for Laundry Service since the 1960s. What brought you here?
After high school, my father had retired and we moved from Arkansas up here. One of my older sisters was working at Laundry at that time, and she asked the boss if I could have a part-time job for the summer. He said yes. Unfortunately, my father had a heart attack, and I became the sole breadwinner. So I continued to work after the summer was over. I also met my husband here.
What do you enjoy most about the job?
Every day is different and there’s always something happening. I also like the early-morning hours. We usually get here at 6 a.m. and get off at 2:30 p.m., which is really nice. I’m a morning person.
How have things changed during the time you’ve worked in Laundry Service?
When I started, our building was downtown at Court and Madison. In the uniform area, we’ve got a bar code system for the uniforms, so we scan them in and out easily. It’s cut down on the paperwork tremendously. In the old building, we didn’t have the overhead rail system that we have now. Before we had big carts that we had to pull from one station to another. The rail system has saved quite a bit of manpower because we don’t have to move stuff around ourselves.
You must have seen a lot of people come and go over the years.
Oh my goodness, I can’t even imagine how many people I’ve seen and how many I’ve trained over the years. In 41 years, I’ve had five managers, one assistant manager, and I think I’m on my eighth supervisor. I didn’t get rid of all of them!
If you could have another job for just one day, what would you do?
You know, I really don’t know. I’ve always enjoyed my job so much that I’ve never thought about doing anything else. People have asked me why I’ve stayed here so long because there are ample opportunities in the University, and I say, "I like what I do." I like the hours. I’ve never really thought about doing anything else.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
I’m a big reader. I like everything except science fiction. Louis L’Amour is one of my favorites. That’s how my husband and I met. I was reading at work one day. I was very, very shy then. You’d never believe it now. He asked me if I’d ever read Louis L’Amour. I said very quietly, ‘No.’ The very next day, he brought me a book, Shalako, and that’s how we started talking. At that time, they had a rule that even if you were dating, you could not work in the same department. He wanted to go into construction anyway, so he found a job in the construction field. We were married 36 years.
I also have a very good friend who’s also a widow. We travel together, go shopping together, and we talk every day on the phone. We could be together eight hours on a Saturday and still go home and talk three hours on the phone.
I volunteered with Washington County Hospice for a while, and I’d like to do that more when I retire.
Is retirement in the near future? What are you looking forward to most about retirement?
Maybe within a few years. I’ve enjoyed my time here and I want to finish my career at laundry. I’m looking forward to traveling as much as possible and remodeling my house. After my husband passed away, I started remodeling the house with the help of my son. I’ve learned a lot about construction: I’ve stripped woodwork, and stained and coated it. I’ve done a lot of painting. And I’ve helped with drywall—I’m really good at tearing it down.
Do you do your own laundry at home?
I do and I enjoy doing it. Some people say after doing laundry all day, they don’t like to do their own. But I really don’t mind it. My thing is doing the dishes and putting the silverware away. I don’t mind the dishes, but for some reason, I hate putting the silverware away.
You’re a big John Wayne fan. How did that start?
My husband and I enjoyed going to gun shows to find John Wayne articles. I’ve got everything from a 3-foot stand-up doll to coins, belt buckles, and knives.
I’ve always liked John Wayne movies. To me, he stood for America. He was honest and didn’t take any bull from anybody. I’m kind of that way too. People here will tell you. I speak my mind to everyone, from the lowest employee all the way to the top.
by Madelaine Jerousek-Smith