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Hershey: Best friends

Couples fell in love at Hershey. Couples divorced at Hershey.

They had babies, and their babies had babies. They celebrated birthdays and mourned at funerals. But most of all, workers developed lifelong friendships inside the iconic chocolate factory.

That's what Mary Sabin and Rosanne Hernandez will miss most about their time at Hershey. The duo became friends while working the same shift and have been inseparable since.

They came to the plant as young women and left as grandparents, Hernandez said.

Sabin, 62, worked at the plant for 37 years. She left about three years ago on disability, but still felt a pang of shock when she learned the plant would close.

"I was mortified," she said. "I thought, Hershey can't be closing. It would be there forever and ever."

Hernandez, 54, planned to stay until the last piece of candy came off the line, but she had to leave about two weeks early on Jan. 22 for foot surgery, ending her 25-year career at the chocolate factory.

"They had to drag her out of there," Sabin teased her friend.

"I didn't want to leave," Hernandez said. Her supervisors, whom she described as "the best in the world," allowed her to spend most of her final shift saying goodbye to her co-workers.

"Reality is setting in now. It's finally over," Hernandez said. "These people are my friends and family. I will miss them."

-- Christina Salerno

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