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Horton finds peace, retirement in fishing

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

McDonough resident, Dan Horton, said he spends his off days fishing on area lakes. He packs a lunch consisting of a Granola bar and a turkey-and-mustard sandwich on rye bread, and he loses himself in his passion.

"I'm a compulsive fisherman," he said. "I fish from dark to dark on any day that ends in 'y.'"

Horton, 65, will soon have an opportunity to expand his devotion to the hobby as he retires today, after 20 years of work with Toppan InterAmerica, Inc. Toppan is a Japanese-owned, commercial printer of furniture, cabinet and floor laminates, located in McDonough.

"It's kind of bitter sweet," he said. "It's a mixed emotion, because these people are like family, and I love them all. I really don't want to go. I've been involved with Toppan since it got started here."

Horton, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, said he was relocated about 20 years ago as a designer with the Cincinnati-based Formica Corporation, Inc., a laminate and surfacing manufacturer. He was in charge of helping open the McDonough facility for Toppan, which bought several crucial pieces of printing equipment from Formica. He left Formica when Toppan opened in the late 1980s.

Horton recalls a more subdued Henry County than he sees these days. "It was very rural," he said. "There was very little commerce."

Likewise, he said his career has slowly evolved to suit the times and growth of the printing industry. "At first, I had more responsibility," he said, "and I became more specialized over time."

Horton is now the outgoing production-support group leader at Toppan. He has more than 45 years combined experience in the printing industry. For the past several weeks, he has been assisting his co-workers in learning his responsibilities, which have been divided among them.

Cole Flournoy, Toppan's current support-team leader, will inherit some of Horton's responsibilities, as well as his title of production, support-group leader at the start of the year. Flournoy, who has worked at Toppan the past 17 years, said he has learned much of the industry from Horton.

"He noticed my strengths and guided me, and I built upon that foundation," said Flournoy. "He's the type of leader -- he's not overbearing. He gives you the opportunity to learn from your mistakes, and he guides you so that you know where you're going."

Toppan Vice President of Manufacturing Bob Kolar said Horton's leadership has been far-reaching. Kolar said Horton is even considered a sort of mentor to employees at Toppan's Japanese facility. "Over the years, Dan has influenced and impacted a lot of young people in his career," Kolar said. "He's been a valuable asset to this company."

Horton said he is grateful for the opportunity to have had a long and enjoyable, singular career, an increasingly rare occurrence these days. "I've been given the chance to do jobs that I really didn't have the background to do, but was given the opportunity to learn by experience," he said. "And I've never missed a check.

"Education is key now days," he continued. "Kids have to decide what they want to do, and enjoy what they do. I've enjoyed what I do. If you spend your life in a job you're not happy doing, it's a miserable life."

He said his decision to retire, after several years of contemplation, was made in order to enjoy what has been a healthy life so far. "I've never taken a sick day," said Horton, who said he walks three miles and does 60 push-ups daily. "I've been blessed with good health."

Horton had two children, Sherri and Michele, with his now-deceased wife, Sue, and there are four grandchildren. He said he plans to visit his grandchildren in Cincinnati between the fishing excursions he has planned in Canada, and in Alaska and other parts of the country.

Having started fishing at the age of three, with his father, Horton has continued to do it on almost a daily basis. He said he finds peace of mind in nature.

"This is more than a hobby, this is an obsession," he said. "It's a psychological release, and when I'm out there, I'm in harmony with nature. I'll see deer swimming across the lake ... You see things that other people never witness."