Elaine Breeck says the third time is the last time – or so she thinks.
Wednesday, the 70-year-old retired as secretary in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office after answering the phones for 10 years. However, retirement is nothing new to Breeck – this is her third go at it.
“I think this is it,” she said Wednesday afternoon hours before she left the office for the last time.
Her initial retirement came after working 29 years with the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources where she loved her work, but “you just know sometimes when it’s time to move on.” And her second was after a stint with AFL-CIO.
But the Frankfort native quickly became bored without her work schedule and found herself back in the office each time.
She started working under former Commonwealth’s Attorney Morris Burton before she was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2007.
She left shortly after Commonwealth’s Attorney Larry Cleveland took office, and after a three-year hiatus, he asked her to come back to work.
Breeck says she won’t miss the constantly ringing phone with the good and the ugly on the other end, but she says she’s going to miss the families she’s met.
A man who has a son in drug rehabilitation occasionally calls to let her know his son is doing well.
“I’ll miss hearing from him; you start to feel like you really know these people,” Breeck said.
It’s a lot of “not so good stuff,” too, she says. She admits the job isn’t for everyone.
“Some of the people that come in here are families of suspects, and some broke the law.”
Though it’s not part of her job description, she’s visited with the “good-hearted” and the “bad decision-makers” while they’ve waited for the prosecutor to call them into his office.
“You really feel sorry for families,” she said. “You really have to be a people person to do this.”
She says before the construction started at the St. Clair Street Franklin County Courthouse, Cleveland was prosecuting a murder trial, and the witnesses had to wait in the office until called to the courtroom.
“Many times the family members were witnesses, and they sat here all day until they called them in to testify,” she said pointing to the couches facing her desk.
“I felt so bad for them, but I got to know them very well, but if you didn’t like people you’d be in a tight spot,” she said.
Before Breeck came back to the office she tried working as a victim advocate, but “it broke my heart.”
“The children are usually in situations where they have no say,” she says. “Even the convicted felons, you realize so many of them are nice people, and you wonder how they got to where they are.
“They made bad choices and were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now they are in jail or addicted. This is a job that can really get ya down.”
However, lunches at Melanie’s with Cleveland and former victim advocate Betty Reynolds were ways for her to forget the troubles at work.
One of the factors contributing to Breeck’s retirement is her knee replacement surgery. She’s worked from a wheelchair for months but had surgery Friday and hopes to get rid of the chair.
“Hopefully I’ll be up out the wheelchair, and I’ll be able to do anything I want.”
She wants to spend more time with her family – she has two grown sons, Marty and Dale – when she is home for good.
She says she’s volunteered with the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History after her other “retirements” and is involved with her church. But she has no plans for her free time yet.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I know it’s going to be fun and exciting.”
And it better be exciting, or she’ll end up behind the desk again.
“I think this is it,” she said again, “but who knows – I may get bored.”