At the age of 78, Harry Williams hardly is ready to slow down and now is in his third job, as owner of Just Cleaned cleaning service. Here he cleans the stairway of a house in Ashland. - Jim Craven

Next step in a long life

At an age when his peers are slowing down, kicking back or worse, Harry Williams is picking up the pace.

Teamed with Shirley, his wife of 43 years, the 78-year-old Korean War veteran is in the midst of a third career and has no thoughts of calling it quits.

Long after exiting a lengthy career in the print shop of a legal trade publication and after nearly three decades of ranching, Harry Williams now puts the shine on some of the more stylish homes in Ashland.

The Williams have operated Just Cleaned, a residential house-cleaning service for the past six years. They now have 30 clients and work three to four houses a day.

The Williams moved to the Greensprings nearly three decades ago, where he managed the Box D Ranch "just down the street" from Pinehurst School where Shirley was an administrative secretary for 15 years.

They got into the cleaning business incrementally. She worked some jobs for TLC Home Cleaning, while Harry took a job gardening at the school when his ranch days ended.

Not content simply to watch trees grow and tourists pass by, Harry saw opportunity.

"We decided we wanted to do something and Harry said, 'Why don't we try house cleaning?' " Shirley said.

Harry tackles tasks men typically avoid with vigor: Vacuuming, washing and scrubbing floors, dusting and bathrooms.

"I try to have an even approach when I'm working, not getting up, down," he says. "It's satisfying to see the before and after results."

Dusting, of course, is more than tedious — when you're dealing with someone else's family heirlooms, it can be downright dangerous.

"A lot of people have knick-knacks on counters," he says. "Some are very expensive and I have to be very careful about things like that. We have upscale clients and I always tell them if they see me running out the door — I just broke something expensive."

He knows his limits and leaves the bookkeeping to his wife.

"We have a trade-off — I do all the cooking," he says.

With no children or grandkids to spoil, the Williams look forward to their daily routine and seeing their clients.

They work 51 weeks a year, taking off a week around Christmas.

"Harry and I have had a lot of wonderful years together," she says. "We enjoy meeting people and contributing a little happiness to their lives, see their kids grow up and go through illness with them."

Shirley says there is no end in sight for their working ways, because Harry is in tip-top physical condition and she's 14 years his junior.

"We like to keep busy and meet people," she says. "We enjoy it and we'll do this as long as we can."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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