The Whirlpool family

From left, members of the Farrington family, Eric, Jerry and Mike, have all worked at Whirlpool Corp. Eric and Mike Farrington are third generation workers at the Benton Harbor-based home appliance maker.

BENTON HARBOR — Eric and Mike Farrington have an easy time running through their family’s lineage.

To do so is effortless because a good portion of it can be found at Whirlpool Corp.

The Farrington clan has seen the home appliance maker grow and extend its reach across the world in a manner of decades. In Whirlpool’s 106 years of existence – dating to when it was the Upton Machine Co. – there has been a Farrington working there for the last 71 years.

As of 2017, the Farringtons have collectively spent more than a century at Whirlpool.

“It’s something we’re proud of,” Mike said.

Mike Farrington is the director of laboratory operations and his twin brother, Eric, is the senior principal engineer for top load laundry.

Jerry, the patriarch, was the director of procurement before retiring in 1994.

Before Jerry, his father – Richard “Ken” Farrington – was the first in the family to join Whirlpool. Ken was hired to be a quality inspector for the company in 1946.

Growing up, Ken’s family had a farm, which Jerry said his father didn’t particularly want to work on.

Ken traveled all over Southwest Michigan, working at a paper mill and becoming a Navy inspector, before starting at Whirlpool. According to Jerry, his father liked the company and wanted to make a good living for his family.

Ken would work for about 30 years before retiring.

At 28, Jerry followed suit and joined Whirlpool in 1966 as a product engineer. He was working at Electro-Voice in Buchanan at the time, when his wife (surprisingly) gave birth to twins. Suddenly, their family grew from three to five.

“I knew Whirlpool was a good company and I loved working at Electro-Voice. It was fun, but I needed money,” Jerry said in an interview Tuesday. “So I applied here and got it. I already had a daughter, but when I got two more, that was more than I thought I could handle.”

Jerry retired after 30 years, having spent time in seven different positions within the company. Thirty years is a common thread for the Farringtons, as Jerry’s sons have either spent a similar amount of time there as well.

Two paths, same outcome

Despite being born on the same day, Eric and Mike joined the company years apart.

Right out of high school, Eric was the first to join in 1984. He was an engineer co-op, in which he would spend three months working on the job and three months on college study for five years.

He became a full-time worker by 1989, going through Whirlpool’s Technical Excellence Program.

“My whole family is here. My extended family is here, my parents are here, my sister’s here, my brother’s here,” Eric said. “There were roots growing. It was just a perfect storm. There was nothing pulling me away.”

Mike took a different path.

Even after getting a Whirlpool scholarship to attend college, Mike refused to interview with the company upon graduation.

Mike said he wanted to strike out on his own and not bring his wife back to his hometown, where everything was already established.

The two moved to Rochester, Minn., where they worked at IBM. When they began to discuss having a family, they moved back home to do so. Mike secured an interview upon moving back and was at Whirlpool by 1992.

Now, Eric and Mike work in the same building after years of bouncing around throughout Whirlpool’s locations in the Twin Cities.

“It wasn’t a tricky move for me to come back here and work at Whirlpool because I knew so many people were having success here,” Mike said.

The three Farringtons were there together until Jerry decided to retire in 1995.

Keeping it in the family

As a family of mechanical and electrical engineers, Whirlpool has been quite the draw for the Farringtons.

But now the focus is on the next generation.

Eric has three sons: Two are in engineering, one of which has graduated and has branched out – not unlike his uncle Mike – establishing himself as an engineer.

As for the other son who’s in college, Eric said there’s no pressure.

“He is in mechanical engineering at Western (Michigan University), but he has not expressed interest either way yet,” he said. “You know freshmen.”

Mike has two kids: a son pursuing his Ph.D. in political science at the University of Oregon and a daughter who attends Berrien County RESA.

Neither have shown an interest in the appliance maker. The twins joke that all hope of securing a fourth generation falls on Eric’s branch in the family tree.

Jerry, who has enjoyed retirement for two decades, said he appreciates what Whirlpool has meant to him and his family. On most Sundays, the Farringtons have 13 to 20 people over for family dinners for this reason.

“I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to do what’s happened here,” Jerry said. “There are very few people who can stay in the same town and have all but one grandson in the area.”

Contact: twittkowski@TheHP.com, 932-0358, Twitter: @TonyWittkowski