Rizla collector Annie Wante (65) is retiring after 49 years: “She is an icon for the company”

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Rizla, the manufacturer of cigarette papers in Wilrijk (Antwerp), said it waved goodbye to an icon on Friday. After 49 years, Annie Wante (65) is retiring, but she continues her Rizla collection. “I could write a book about it.”

On Friday, Rizla’s staff briefly stopped work to honor employee Annie Wante. After working wholeheartedly in the company for 49 years, she is now retiring. “I’m 65 and I think there should be a limit to working. People ask me why I didn’t continue working for fifty years, but it is time to end this and enjoy my free time,” says Annie.

During the celebration, the management and colleagues had many nice words for her. This is what factory director Kris Smedts said: “Annie, our mother, is an icon for the company. She takes enormous care of her environment, both for colleagues and for our product. So she always took care of her machines pico bello were in order and she took the younger generation along with her. Actually, she is an example for others and it is difficult to let her go today.”

Fifteen years young

Annie’s story with Rizla started in 1975 when she was 15 years old. “This used to be a family business. My mother and sister already worked there. Because I was not allowed to finish school, I also started there. On Monday February 10th I had my first day and I immediately had to use a filter machine. In the end it went smoothly and I was done with it straight away.”

Over the years, Annie has experienced many changes in the company, from automation to digitalization, for example. “Changing to a shift system was an intense period. Apart from that, I have seen a lot of people come and go over the years.”

Factory director Kris Smedts donated a number of collectibles to Annie that she can add to her collection. Photo: Dirk Kerstens

Although she worked in a cigarette rolling paper factory for almost half a century, Annie is not a smoker herself. “I have only ever smoked the peace pipe. There were three of us at home, my mother, my sister and me. When resentment arose between my sister and I, I suggested we smoke the peace pipe. It was a large wooden pipe that hung on the wall in the living room and we filled it with our mother’s tobacco. I was once very sick from it and then I swore off smoking for good,” Annie tells her story with a laugh.

“Everyone has a hobby, this is mine. At home I keep everything in covers and plastic bins, because there is far too much to display.”

Annie Wante

Rizla collection

In addition to the working days in the factory, Rizla also has a place in Annie’s free time. As an avid collector, she has been keeping track of everything related to the company for years. This started with a book that she liked, but as more and more unique copies came onto the market, she started a collection. “Everyone has a hobby, this is mine. At home I keep everything in covers and plastic bins because there is way too much to display. For example, I have already donated a Rizla pocket bike to the company, because I didn’t have room for it myself, and it has been given a nice place in the entrance hall.”

Now that her career at the manufacturer is ending, that does not mean that Annie will stop collecting. At the celebration she also received a number of items to add to her collection: an authentic campaign poster, T-shirt and ashtray that were still used by the Painblanc business family.

As a gift, Annie received the ashtray that was used by the Painblanc family at the time. Photo: Dirk Kerstens

Annie will extend her caring for others even more into her personal life during her retirement. For example, the neighbor’s dog is waiting for her while they are on vacation. She also takes care of her neighbors who are over 80 and prepares food for them while cooking. “Caring is in my character, I always try to be there for everyone.”

This has not gone unnoticed by Rizla’s colleagues. Everyone wanted to have their picture taken with her and brought gifts to give her a proper farewell. “She is the warmest person in the company and always had a positive attitude. Not a day went by that she did not arrive at work with a broad smile and helped create a pleasant working atmosphere,” the speeches say. Factory director Smedts added in summary: “Annie is the person who has been employed the longest and she may remain so. No one can imitate her.”

After 49 years of service, it was difficult and emotional for Annie to say goodbye. Photo: Dirk Kerstens

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Rizla collector Annie Wante retiring years icon company

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