During her first days as an employee at Macy’s Department Store in New York’s Herald Square, Rose Syracuse, then 17 years old, would get lost in the long, intertwining halls and corridors within the landmark building. FDR was president, America was still two years away from another world war, and the World’s Fair was just opening in New York.
Seventy-three years later, and Syracuse, now 93, knows the warren of tunnels inside Macy’s perhaps better than anyone. After all, she is Macy’s longest employee ever, loyally serving the department store for all of 73 years before her retirement yesterday.
Following a ceremony that honored multiple employees, Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren presented Syracuse with a special accommodation: a bouquet of roses as he bent down on his knee to signify Syracuse’s long marriage to the company.
“When I was 17, I graduated high school and the first thing I did was I went to Macy’s for a job and it worked,” says Syracuse, whose starting salary was $15 a week.
Syracuse was born in Pennsylvania, the sole daughter in a family of three children. ”My father said, we are not staying in this town any longer and my boys are not going to work in the coal mines,” remembers Syracuse, “so we came to Brooklyn and we’ve been here ever since.”
The family regularly attended the Macy’s Day Parade, which Syracuse called “loveable with the music and the people, it was wonderful.”
Syracuse began and ended her career at Macy’s in the accounting department. ”I was always looking for the accounting department,” says Syracuse, “you know, Macy’s was a bank at one time. Then I became a bookkeeper, then the computers came in and you get used to everything.”
Throughout the years, Syracuse has seen multiple bosses and coworkers – all of whom she attests to being “one better than the other.”
One of those coworkers is Robin Hall, senior vice president of Macy’ Parade.
“[Macy's] is a special place, the energy of the place is very much like living in New York City, it is busy and tumultuous but there is wonderful energy there are a lot of dedicated and long-time people,” says Hall.
Hall met Syracuse when she was celebrating her 70th anniversary at the company. “They called me and asked what we should do for Rose,” says Hall, “and I said, she should lead the parade with me and cut the ribbon – we’ve had politicians and famous stars and special guests cut the ribbon but never an employee.”
A jubilant Syracuse cut the parade ribbon at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade alongside Hall in 2009.
“Macy’s has come a long, long way,” says Syracuse, who was forced to retire after she fell and broke her hip about six months ago. “If I didn’t break my hip,” says Syracuse, “I would still be there.”
Syracuse’s family tried to get her to retire from Macy’s when she turned 65. “I said no,” says Syracuse.
Twenty-seven years later, Syracuse is finally throwing in the towel. Despite being off the payroll however, Syracuse does not plan on leaving Macy’s altogether.
“We’ll make sure we keep her busy,” says Hall, “we are gonna find activity for her and we hope to find her a position and keep her busy because she wants to be engaged and involved.
“Macy’s is her family, people don’t leave their family,” says Hall, and Macy’s is where Syracuse belongs.