Greensburg resident Norman Unruh will be honored for 40 years of service to the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Holding a sign in the middle of a road in the pouring rain is not something most people would want to do. But for Norman Unruh, it's part of his job working for the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Unruh started working for KDOT on Nov. 14, 1977 and for the past 40 years has tackled a variety of jobs that have kept his life interesting for four decades.
At age 23, Unruh was working for a paint contractor and that job was just about finished when he heard about an opening at KDOT. He got the job and his assignment was flagging traffic. He quickly expanded to plowing snow and spreading salt and sand in the winter time. He did a little bit of everything and that was just fine with him.
"It's been a nice job over the years," Unruh said. "You're not doing the same thing every day and I got to meet a lot of different people over the years.
At first, Unruh did a lot of mowing then moved into trucks and did a variety of jobs. All the jobs were interesting and when something new would come along, he liked it because he got a chance to meet a lot of guys.
"It's been an interesting run," Unruh said. "It changes daily."
Unruh was born and raised in Greensburg. He has been based out of Greensburg the entire time he has worked for KDOT.
One of his most powerful memories was helping with the clean up after a 1.5 mile wide EF 5 tornado went down Main Street and destroyed 95 percent of the town. For weeks on end, he drove his truck to the landfill and threw way other people's life time of possessions.
"I wouldn't wish that on anybody," Unruh said.
Although there was much to do, Unruh said it KDOT sent people out in full force to help while the National Guard also sent soldiers to help.
"It was nice to have other folks come in and help. I appreciated it a lot," Unruh said.
After a storm in March, he went to Dodge City and helped pickup tree limbs. One winter, there was a lot of snow around Thanksgiving and then it stayed cold and there was lots of wind. Having to work in snow is just the way the cookie crumbles but it's still something he has to do.
Unruh enjoys working every day and enjoys what he does. Doing several jobs helps break up the monotony of some jobs. He will work one job for two or three weeks and then change and do something else and that suits him just fine.
Of all the jobs he's had, he admits that everybody likes to do anything but flagging. Having to stand outdoors in all kinds of weather when its hot or cold or raining or blowing snow, flagging has to be done. One winter, the snow was so bad, Unruh's his boss had to come pick him up in a loader so he could get to work.
Traffic is always a serious part of flagging especially on U.S. 54.
"You've got to be on your toes. You have to pay attention to what's going on around you at all times," Unruh said.
Flagging for accidents is just part of the job especially when its night. Once in a while, a fatality is involved. It's a tough thing to do. It's a bad deal anytime there's a fatality. But they have to maintain the traffic flow around that accident.
"It's part of the job," Unruh said. "It's one of the things that's necessary. Some times you have to do what you have to do."
Flagging traffic also has some interesting moments. A truck driver got stuck under the overpass by Mullinville and he had to flag traffic in the rain. He's told there was even some hail but he doesn't remember that, he just remembers concentrating on what he was doing.
Sometimes KDOT would send crews to other areas to help out with projects. He's been to Coldwater, Kinsley, Kingman, Medicine Lodge and Pratt to help out.
With 40 years under his belt, Unruh isn't thinking about retiring just yet. He wants to continue working for another two or three years. He gets along with his co-workers and has a pretty good time working with them.
Unruh has been married for 39 years. His wife works in Kinsley and both his children work in Greensburg. He got married one year after he started working for KDOT. In his free time, he likes to go camping.
There will be a ceremony to honor his 40 years of service. He read in the KDOT state magazine of one guy that has worked 44 years and he knows of another that has worked for 50 but he says he "won't be that guy."
For 40 years, Unruh has enjoyed working outdoors, he likes his co-workers and likes the variety of work so that he's not doing the same thing all the time.
"It's been a good run," Unruh said.