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A sad week as tragedy hits home

Joe Centers • Dec 11, 2018 at 12:00 PM

Road construction is Norwalk — its heart and soul.

We’ve talked many times here about just how important road construction is to this city, going back to the Hug, Chapin and Chapin and Baltes days.

My father-in-law, Charles Mushett, used to tell the story of Tom Hug and how he started out in the business. Hug had a shovel and a wheelbarrow to begin and he built Hug Concrete into a multi-million dollar business which is now Oglesby Construction.

Charles was a lifelong railroader but with nine children, he also worked for Baltes as a second job. He talked about building roads all over Ohio. He said one time the crew he worked on was in Urbana and after work they stopped at a bar for a beer (or two). They had a black man on their crew and the bartender refused to serve him. 

The crew got up and left.

It is never easy on the road. You work all day, get something to eat and maybe a few beers, go to bed in a hotel room then do it all over the next day.

My neighbor works for Newcomer Concrete in Columbus. Every morning about 4 o’clock he gets up and heads out. After work they face that long ride home and then they do it all over the next day.

One thing is common among all road workers. It doesn’t matter if you work close to home or far away — you always have to deal with traffic.

It is a sad week here following the death Friday of Teresa M. Howell, 24, of Greenwich. Howell, the mother of two young children, Leland and Chevy, was working for Lake Erie Construction Co. repairing a guardrail on U.S. 33 northwest of Columbus. Howell was hit by a tractor-trailer. 

The preliminary investigation revealed the driver drove over several orange safety cones that had been placed in the righthand lane of U.S. 33 eastbound, west of Ohio 161. The cones had been placed to protect workers.

A few years back a couple of workers were killed on the Ohio Turnpike. A truck driver went through the cones and safety zone. Now, workers park a truck at the head of the safety zone to give them more protection. 

It’s not so easy on the interstates and state routes. There are so many rules and regulations. You hear it and see it all of the time. Drivers are encouraged to slow down and be more aware in construction zones. But all it takes is one person — somebody texting or on the phone or a truck driver who falls asleep — to have a tragedy.

I talked Monday with a man who worked on the road for 31 years. He is retired from the union, but has another full-time job and loves it. He said he doesn’t miss the road one bit.

Any close calls?

“I remember a few of them,” he said. “I’m sure there are some I don’t remember.”

Many jobs come with risks — police, firefighters and road workers — to name a few. That’s part of the job.

You hope and wish it never happens, but it does.

All we can do is say thank-you to everybody who risks their lives every day and just pray for them.

And when you are on the road, slow down in work zones. One of the workers on the crew may be your neighbor.

Joe Centers is Reflector managing editor. He can be reached at [email protected]

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