Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 20, 2011
N.C. Department of Transportation
RALEIGH — For most 80-year-olds, life is about relaxing with grandchildren and enjoying retirement. Not for Rowan County transportation worker Hubert Elliot.
This octogenarian works 40 hours a week hauling dirt, asphalt, gravel and anything else the job requires.
Elliot helps patch bumpy roads across the county, and when winter weather hits the area, he is behind the wheel of his work truck spraying the roads with salt brine and breaking up ice just as well as co-workers who are half his age or younger.
In fact, during the winter snowstorms early this year, he worked 24-hour shifts doing snow and ice removal.
“I just try to do the best I can,” Elliot said.
He started working at the Rowan County Maintenance Yard 13 years ago at the spry age of 67. He took a job at the N.C. Department of Transportation after a friend repeatedly encouraged him to apply. Although 67 sounds like a mature age to start such a hands-on career, Elliot was well prepared for it.
He has worked jobs that have kept him moving for most of his life.
“As long as you keep working, you’ll be alright,” Elliot said.
He grew up on a farm in China Grove, where he worked in the cotton fields. He enlisted in the military in 1946 and ran a cafeteria during his time in service. He also operated his own auto service station and saw much of America as a transfer truck driver.
Elliot believes that remaining active since childhood is what keeps him active now.
His favorite part of his job with the DOT is the people. Elliot enjoys his co-workers, and his co-workers enjoy him, too.
“He’s always happy to be here,” said Tamra Safriet, who works at the maintenance yard. “His attitude and smile inspire people in the office.”
“If someone asked him for help, he’d do it,” transportation worker Kelly Myrick said. “There’s nothing negative I can say about him.”
Elliot shies away from saying that he is a mentor to his younger workmates, but they say they gain a lot of wisdom and insight from him.
“A lot of these guys look at him like a father figure,” Safriet said.
His boss agrees. “His positivity and eagerness to work challenge me to do my job as best I can,” said Rowan County Maintenance Engineer Kevin Neal.
Todd Eddleman rode with Elliot during his training. When he saw what Elliot did on a daily basis, he was amazed. “I hope I can do that when I’m his age,” he said.
During Eddleman’s training, Elliot took him down many roads — some Eddleman did not know existed. “If there’s a shorter way to get from point A to point B, he knows it,” Eddleman said.
Elliot’s doctors are astonished at the daily work he does. He says they ask him when he will retire. His answer is always, “I don’t know.” He plans to keep working for as long as he can. And as the oldest employee in the N.C. DOT Division of Highways, he has certainly set a precedent for longevity. “I feel like I’ve done a good job,” Elliot said.
Doctors are not the only ones impressed by his endurance and energy. “He’s older than us and has twice the energy,” colleague Mike Erwin said.
When Elliot is not working, he is spending quality time with his family. He has been married to his wife for 62 years, and they will celebrate their 63rd anniversary in December. The couple has one daughter, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
But Elliot says the work he has done, though awe-inspiring to most, has not been by his own doing.
“I give the good Lord credit for that,” he said.