December 30, 2020 – West Bend, WI – After 47 1/2 years with one employer Sharon Ruplinger is ready to retire from McDonald’s and Kilian Management Services.
Ruplinger, a McDonald’s veteran, started in 1973 when she was a 15-year-old sophomore at West Bend East High School.
“I was there when the special sauce for the Big Mac was mixed at the store and when the Hamburgler crawl thing, bouncy fry girls and metal slides were in the outdoor play land,” Ruplinger said. “We had to shut down the play area when it was really hot because kids would burn their legs on that metal slide.”
As a teen Ruplinger had to know all the prices and the tax table, add by hand on a piece of paper, and cook by sight – not by computer.
Ruplinger started working behind the counter at McDonald’s when the store was located at 915 S. Main Street; currently home to AutoZone. That store had a one-window drive thru and the popular sandwich was the McLean Deluxe. She was there in 1988 when the uniforms were baby blue with polyester pants and a blue striped button-up top.
Ruplinger advanced within the ranks and worked as Steve Kilian’s assistant and local marketing manager. She was there when the McDonald’s offices were in the basement of the Kilian home and then the Centrum Building, the Frisby House on the hill at S. Main and Poplar Street and now at the corporate office on Clarence Court.
Ruplinger has worked for Steve Kilian and Steve Jr. ever since Junior was 7 years old.
“She said my brother and I were running around as kids and my dad and mom were there so we kind of grew up with Sharon in our house every day,” said Kilian Jr. “It was very unique but amazing how it worked out.”
“She is the hardest working, most loyal person you could ever meet,” said Steve Kilian Jr. “She cares about everybody here and wants to see everybody succeed and that’s just a great quality and she cares so much and wants to do the best and she’s come to work every day doing that which has been outstanding and we’re just thankful she’s stayed with us for so many years.”
Kilian said the secret to Sharon’s success came from hard work.
“She earned the respect of her peers, both the people who work for her and the people she worked for,” he said. “She never would ask someone to do something she wouldn’t do herself and she was honest. That’s how people earn respect.”
Kilian Jr. said it was 2019 when Ruplinger gave her 1-year notice. “It was a very emotional moment,” he said. “She said she is always a phone call away and it was really important for her to have a replacement in place so nothing would fall through the cracks. She wanted to leave knowing everyone would be set up for success once she was gone and that’s a real special thing.”
Jane Sterr is one of the Day Ladies at McDonald’s who has also had a long career at the Golden Arches. She worked alongside Ruplinger. “That was when we had an outdoor play area where someone stole the full-size Ronald McDonald.”
“Sharon took care of a lot of parties and she kept the dining area clean,” said Sterr.
“Sharon is awesome; she would do anything for you,” said McDonald’s Day Lady Karen Wentz. “Whenever we had any celebration she was always there. Everybody loved her.”
Deb Swenson started with Kilian Management in 1999 and has worked with Sharon “forever.”
“Everybody loves her and she’s been crying for a couple days already because the feedback on the emails has been just tremendous,” she said. “Sharon will be sorely missed. She is very accommodating; she is the face of McDonald’s. She was instrumental in planning the Threshold Shamrock Shake Day and the teacher appreciation nights. We did a fund raiser for Ronald McDonald House and Cars for a Cause. The Kilian’s are so generous and always giving back to the community.”
“I’m really sad. This is very sad,” said Steve Kilian Sr. “She was going to retire in August and then her husband was going to retire at the same time and she said she could then stay until the end of the year when he is retiring.”
Kilian said he had a million Sharon stories. “When I came to West Bend in 1990 and she was working for the previous owner she was pretty emotional about the changes we made and she cried then and now that she’s leaving, she’s crying again,” he said.
“I spotted her and thought she was capable of a lot of things. She did some bookwork for me and she became close to my family because she came to work at my house every day,” said Kilian. “She would sometimes babysit or throw birthday parties; she did what we needed her to do.”
Kilian said Ruplinger evolved from being a helper to being a consultant. “I would ask her opinion on so many things,” he said. “Her confidence grew and she was a big voice in our company. She got to the point where she did my thinking for me, she got to know me so well.”
Kilian credited Ruplinger with having great instincts. “She became the marketing person. She had no formal training but we learned the business together,” he said.
While Ruplinger’s career spanned nearly 48 years, the last 31 years were with Kilian Management.
“I am going to miss her tremendously,” said Kilian. “She’s become, not only a member of my company but of my family and she had a tremendous effect on my business and my family and I sincerely thank her for that.”
Ruplinger’s family submitted the notes below.
“I could not be more proud of the dedication and work ethic of 47 years at the same employer. This is the last of a generation of worker devoted to their employer for life. Also, having grown up on McDonalds cheeseburgers since they were a quarter, I hope my kids will realize that fast food can provide a lifetime of support to a family. Sharon has her home family and her McDonald’s family, and only the time of day determined which she worked harder for.” – Scott Ruplinger (Son)
“My mom has been proud to be part of McDonald’s for her entire career. I am grateful that I witnessed her strong work ethic and loyalty. Her example made us better.” – Kim Raschick (Daughter)
“We grew up with McDonald’s. From Mom bringing home the newest happy meal toy to breaking in the new play-places. Every birthday party we had was with our McDonald’s family at the restaurants. Looking back, I can’t think of a time when I heard my Mom complain about work. She loves her job and her co-workers. Her work ethic lessons have been taught to us and we will pass down to our kids.” – Kelly Bubolz (Daughter)
Ruplinger sent a note December 10, 2020 notifying friends and clients of her retirement.
This email is to inform the business associates (which I will call my Friends) that I have worked with over the many years. I will be retiring at the end of the year from McDonald’s/Kilian Management Services.
My one and only job started on April 30, 1974. I have worked for McDonald’s for 47 ½ years with over 30 years with the Kilian’s. I’ve attached our Christmas card from this year with my 9 reasons to retire.
COVID has been rough with not seeing our Grandkids. Hoping after COVID I’ll be the Grandma I want to be. You hear when people retire how they will miss the people they’ve worked with. I can tell you from the bottom of my heart working for the Kilian’s is and was like working with my Family. Steve Jr was 7 yrs old when I started working for them in their office in their house. I’m so proud to say I was here to watch Steve Jr grow up and become a successful 2nd generation Operator.
My Assistant for many years Deb Swenson will be taking over my job and is your contact for Kilian’s schedules and anything else you will need.
Thank you for all the years of help and patience.
Kilian Management Services-McDonald’s