A Fond Farewell to an American Craftsman

By Esther Gifford
June 24, 2016
Dick Gates and his daughter smile at each other in the Nuk factory

After nearly half a century of making pacifiers and sippy cups, Dick Gates is stepping away this year.

At NUK headquarters in Reedsburg, Wisconsin, Dick Gates has been an integral part of designing and manufacturing baby products since 1970, when he started as a stock handler, and in just a few years, became the youngest supervisor in the company’s history.

He loved being part of a process that guaranteed quality and safety for the mothers and children all over the country, and especially in his own back yard.

“I go to church every Sunday and see my product being used,” he said, proudly.

Understanding the value of what his company was making, Dick dedicated himself to learning the nuts and bolts of the process, going to engineering school and taking night classes until his qualifications allowed him to join the engineering and product development team. He went on to develop the mechanisms that are still being used at NUK right now. Producing thousands of baby products every day, many of which are shipped immediately to Walmart.

With NUK’s dedication to keeping local jobs, and Walmart’s commitment to U.S. manufacturing, Dick gained the peace of mind he had always craved. The assurance that he would always have a job. Knowing he could put down roots in this community, confident that he wouldn’t be pulling his kids out of school and moving to another town.

“Walmart’s not going any place,” he said, “and that gave me an incredible sense of security.”

That feeling of safety allowed Dick to think of NUK headquarters as his second home. And to think of his colleagues as family. 

He enjoys his nine-mile drive every morning, watching the sun come up over the tops of the trees. He’s the first one there every day, so he turns on the lights and starts the coffee pot.

“I’m at work, but I’m at home,” he said.

He says it’s a bittersweet feeling, retiring from the company after 45 wonderful years. But he knows that the products and processes he has developed, as well as the spirit he has invested in this company, will go on for a very long time.

“It’s not just for me.  Not just for my son or my daughter.  It’s for generations to come.”

Dick’s legacy will live on in another very special way. His daughter now works on the assembly line at NUK. The child whose first possession was a NUK baby bottle manufactured by her dad is now carrying on the work of the man who made that bottle with loving care.