The North Bend Eagle

Jans with gradsJan Hobza, center left, and Janet Porter pose with some of the members of the NBC class of 2013 as the help out behind the scenes of commencement for the last time.

Friends Jan and Jan leaving together

by Nathan Arneal
Published 6/6/06

The front office of North Bend Central will soon have a dramatically different look, and we’re not talking about the physical remodelling to be done in the coming year.

Two secretaries, linked by a common name and decades of friendship, will be retiring June 28, taking with them a combined 50 years of experience in the NBC office.

Jan Hobza and Janet Porter have been planning their joint exit for a couple of years now. Hobza originally considered retiring last year, but when Porter decided she was going to retire in 2013, her officemate decided that the two friends should call it a career together.

“Jan and I have become like sisters,” Porter said. “We’re so much alike. We enjoy being around each other. We go on vacations together even. That will continue, I’m sure, after we retire.”

Hobza began working at NBC as the superintendent’s secretary in 1979. Her first day on the job was the day after the Tiger boys basketball team qualified for the state tournament for the first time in 52 years.

“It was just chaos,” Hobza recalled. “Everybody was so excited. I mean, it was great. That was my first day and almost immediately the phone was ringing with people asking about tickets. What more exciting way could you start a job?”

She resigned from her secretary position in 1991 when she and husband Rick decided to move to Lincoln. Her last two weeks on the job were spent training her replacement, a new secretary with plenty of bookkeeping experience by the name of Jan Porter.

Porter had kept the books at Fremont National Bank, Big A (soon to be NAPA) Auto Parts, and the North Bend popcorn plant before taking the job at NBC.

Once she got the hang of the job, she knew she wouldn’t be leaving for a long time.

“When I got hired, I knew this was the place I’d be retiring from,” Porter said. “It’s a great job. I enjoyed it. I enjoy the people and I love being around the kids.”

After a few years, her secretarial partner, Marge Daley, retired in 1997. The replacement was a familiar face: Jan Hobza, who had moved back to town with her husband after only a year in Lincoln. The only problem was, now the school had two secretaries named Jan.

“Before, when I first started here, I was Jan,” Porter said. “Everyone called me Jan. Then when Jan came back, I said, ‘OK, I will switch to Janet’ and she took the Jan.”

Despite the extra couple of letters, the similarity in names still causes confusion from time to time.

“Some people get a little confused when they call on the phone and they’ll ask for Jan,” Porter said, “and Jan will take the phone and they’ll start talking about something that I called them about and it’s, ‘Wait a minute, wait a minute! You got the wrong Jan!”

Jan Hobza isn’t bothered by the occasional mix up.

“It just emphasizes the fact that we are a team,” she said. “We’ve been a team, and we’ll probably stay a team for a long, long time.”

The two Jans have been together ever since, working side by side for the past 16 years, with Porter serving as the superintendant’s secretary and main bookkeeper and Hobza working as the principal’s secretary.

While the two positions have different job descriptions, their work often overlaps.

“We’ve gotten along all the time,” Porter said. “It’s never like, ‘Why aren’t you doing this?’ We would just help each other out. If I would see she was busy, I ask if there was something I could do to help her out and vice versa.”

Along with their official duties, they also enjoy being the unofficial welcoming committee as people enter the high school building.

“We are the first person the come in contact with,” Hobza said, “whether it’s answering the phone, or if they walk in as a stranger looking at the school or as a salesperson, we set what they will think we are about.”

Porter said working with the school kids on a daily basis made this job unique from the other bookkeeping positions she has held.

“You’re kind of the mother to several of these kids, too,” Porter said. “If they forget something, it’s, ‘OK, we’ll take care of it.’ It’s so much different than working in a business, and I like it so much more.”

The two have been enjoying a bit of a farewell tour as their careers wind down. Hobza was the guest speaker at the winter athletic banquet, where she shared some of her favorite NBC memories. Hobza and Porter then teamed up to emcee the post prom entertainment this spring.

On April 24, the entire high school student body gathered in front of the building to see Jan and Janet off for a lunch break. After making their way through a tunnel of students, they were surprised to see a limousine waiting for them, along with their husbands, Rick Hobza and Marv Porter, and the district’s two two secretaries, Connie Nelson and Pat Peters.

The group headed out for a limo ride around Fremont, including a stop at the ESU to show off their ride, before coming back to North Bend. They made a pit stop at the city park, where some NBE students were enjoying recess.

“They were surprised it was us in this limo,” Porter said. “They thought it was some movie star. So they’re all running to the limo and all the paras are going, ‘No, no!’ because they didn’t know who it was either.”

Both Jans are busy in their final days training their replacements. Connie Nelson, who was added as a third high school secretary a year and half ago, will fill Porter’s role as superintendent secretary and bookkeeper.

Pam Pabian will fill Nelson’s former roll. Hobza said the addition of a third secretary was necessary as the workload increased over the years.

“One would think that with technology we would be handling less paper and that record keeping and passing on that information would be easier,” Hobza said. “I don’t believe that it is. The state requires teachers and administrators to do more record keeping, more testing, more reporting. I feel bad for some of the teachers that just simply can’t teach because they have to do so much reporting that it takes away from their actual time with the kids.”

Jill Hoops will be replacing Hobza as the principal’s secretary. Hobza, who was never afraid to be the goofy one to entertain kids, said Hoops will fill her shoes nicely.

“She’s going to fit right in,” Hobza said. “She has the same philosophy with kids. I’m willing to do something crazy for kids, to embarrass myself for the kids. That’s part of really enjoying the job, having that friendship and interest in the kids.”

Though they have no kids of their own, Rick and Jan Hobza hosted four exchange students and a foster child during their years in North Bend. Now that they’re both retired, they hope to get over to Europe to visit their former exchange students.

Porter said she has plenty of neglected projects waiting for her at home. Both Jans said they will continue to be frequent guests at NBC.

“I’m never going stop coming to North Bend activities because I love to watch the kids,” Porter said. “In basketball, football, all those activities. We’ll still be coming to those.”

It’s a good bet that Porter, who will soon have grandkids suiting up for the Tigers, will be sitting right next Hobza during those games.

“We are very, very good friends,” Hobza said. “I feel fortunate that our husbands like each other. We not only spend work time together, we go to games together, we go on vacations together. Some people may wonder how much is too much, but we just enjoy being with each other. We’re very close.”

Perhaps the two Jans will find future projects to collaborate on based on their time together in the front office of NBC.

“We always said we should write a book,” Porter said, “because sometimes the things that happen here people would never believe.”

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