SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – She was the computer before computers were invented. Now, after nearly 70 years of service, May Lee, 91, is still working for the state of California.

“I’ve been through ten governors,” said Lee of her time at the sate.

She started back when Earl Warren was governor in 1943. She was making just a hundred dollars a month at the Department of Finance. Lee crunched numbers with a gadget most people have never heard of.

“No computer, and not even an add machine,” said Lee. “I had to use a comptometer to add figures.”

It is a mechanical calculator that adds or subtracts its value with each key stroke.

Sometimes Lee prefers the old fashioned way of doing business, calculating by hand instead of using new technology.

But, she makes it clear that she knows how to use the computer. She learned about twenty years ago, when she came back from retirement.

“You keep on learning new things, and I’m always learning new things,” said Lee.

Now working as a volunteer with limited paid hours, Lee has been promoted throughout her career because of her determination to take on additional training and education. She always encourages coworkers to follow her lead.

Enid Merchant went back to school and advanced her own career, thanks to advice from Lee.

“She’s looked at as an icon to everyone,” said Merchant of Lee. “She’s just the go-to person. She’s been a mentor, an inspiration.”

Cruising the building with her walker and her tools, coworkers consider her a state treasure, known for her remarkable memory.

“It’s better than everybody’s,” said Merchant. “She knows all of the government codes by heart.”

So, what’s her secret?

“Get up every day and do something. Come to work and ask yourself who can I help? Who needs help? Go help them, keeps your brain in gear. Makes you think,” said Lee.

Lee has found time to travel to 150 countries, and she said she never wasted time shopping on those trips. She always headed strait to the museums.


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