State Farm Insurance agent Russell C. Reitz is more than a good neighbor.
On Tuesday, Reitz was surprised by family members, policy holders, fellow insurance agents and friends who crowded in his office at 1911 Lycoming Creek Road to celebrate the former county commissioner's 50 years with the State Farm Insurance Co.
The event was planned by Reitz's secretary Karen Yoxtheimer, according to Marie Reitz, the guest of honor's wife.
"The girls (in the office) made the comment to me that we should do something to celebrate (Reitz's) 50 years," she said. "Karen said, 'Let's go with the party,' and ran with it."
Reitz was presented a state Senate citation by Erik Houser, an aid to state Sen. E. Eugene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, and Tonya Anderson, representing state Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, also was on hand to offer words of congratulations.
Surprising Reitz required an effort that almost fell short.
The idea was to keep him out of the office long enough for the office to be decorated, a large cake, punch and snacks to be arranged on tables, and well-wishers to be assembled.
The plan went awry when Reitz returned to the office shortly after 2 p.m. - almost an hour earlier than expected.
His wife saw him pull into the parking lot and ordered her son, Kevin, to meet him there with an excuse to delay his return.
According to Kevin, he convinced his father to accompany him on an errand to the family farm. They returned - mission accomplished - with the office packed with well-wishers.
Kevin said he told his father the cars in the parking lot probably meant he had a lot of business to attend to.
"I said, 'It looks like you've got an office full,'" Kevin Reitz said.
Beaming, Reitz made his way through the crowd, offering hugs and handshakes, and also accepting congratulations phoned in from a friend who was unable to attend.
Reitz said he had an idea a few well-wishers might show up at his office, but he was unprepared for how many people would turn out to celebrate his anniversary in the business.
"It's quite a surprise and very gratifying to have our friends come out to see us here," he said.
Well-wishers included county Commissioner Ernie Larson; former chief county clerk Andy Follmer, who was hired during Reitz's four-year term as county commissioner; Marvin and Jean Staiman; Reitz's daughter Kathy Eggerton; and grandsons Janson and Micah Eggerton.
Don Reitz, Reitz's brother, was on hand not only as a family member, but as a policy holder who was among his first clients.
"When he got started, he got the whole family (to buy policies)," Don said. "I was barely out of high school at the time and heading for college."
Representatives of State Farm also were on hand.
Agent Joseph Grieco, who has an office in Williamsport, said he attended the reception "to honor someone who has dedicated his life to his policy holders for 50 years."
"Russ has always been quite a diplomat, a man of many hats and his clients love him," said Ralph Steer, who also maintains an office in Williamsport.
"I came because I love Russ," said Karen Bottorf, an agent with an office in Watsontown.
Lynn Henry, a agent with an office in Tioga, attended the reception with his wife, Barbara.
"I came because Russell is a good guy," Henry said.
According to Marie, her husband officially became a State Farm agent on May 1, 1962, about two years after they were married.
She and her husband lived in Franklin, Venango County, when he was hired at age 24 by the insurance company.
They were relocated to an office in New Bethlehem, where they lived for about a year before Russ was transferred to York to manage three agents in that city.
When it became apparent growth opportunities were limited in York, Reitz sought greener pastures and found them in the Williamsport area.
Marie said she was not thrilled about the prospect of moving away from York, but soon learned to call the Williamsport area home.
"We prayed about it and it felt like this was where God wanted us," she said.
Reitz said he never envisioned being in business for 50 years, but now that those years are behind him, he has no intention of retiring.
"Now, I'm looking forward to the next 50 (years)," he said.