One way or another, Friday will be turning point for Bud Henson
The date12-21-12 has only two digits, but a lot of meaning. It is supposed to be the harbinger of doom – the day the world’s clock will finally wind down and tick no more. Earth's grand finale, if you believe prognosticators who study the Mayan calendar.
Not that they are related, but Bud Henson will celebrate a different ending – the conclusion of a 46-year ITD career – around noon on Friday. He’s not anticipating a short retirement, though. He and wife Alice expect to spend Christmas 2012 the same way they have spent many others – with a family gathering at their home in Juliaetta.
The Hensens look forward to entertaining 45 to 60 people at their modest home in a community about 20 miles northeast of Lewiston. Children and grandchildren will be there – “toddlers to old toddlers” – along with some of his wife’s family and his 86-year-old father Marvin. They will spill out of the living and dining room onto a plastic enclosed front porch and a backyard where there’s a gazebo for smokers and a fire pit for the chilled.
They will come from such places as Riggins and Juliaetta, Genesee and Lewiston, Kennewick (Wash.) and perhaps Seattle. Their home has long been a family magnet.
Henson’s career ship left the Rule of 90 dock about a decade ago – a milestone that would have allowed him to retire when the sum of his age and years of service equaled 90. He continued to work, primarily because of the benefits, both health and professional.
“It goes fast though,” he said of a career that dates to Oct. 10, 1966. “I look back and wonder where the 46 years went. I’m still in shock about that.”
Was it only yesterday or last week the 1965 Lewiston High School graduate began working on a survey crew for the Department of Highways? Seems so. That was an era before GPS technology, when Bud calculated signs and co-signs in the field by hand and he used a transit and chain to define a new road.
A decade ago, he and colleagues began embracing computer aided drafting and design (CADD); emerging technology replaced most of the manual design calculations. Dispatching his old drafting table to storage came with some trepidation since his only degree is in “experience.”
While most of his contemporaries at ITD have at least an associate’s degree, Bud ‘s design skills came through on-the-job-training.
That hasn’t been a detriment to a long and distinguished career in highway design, though. His professional resume includes work on Lewiston Hill in the early 1970s, the Kooskia Bridge, the Troy East project, and most recently the seven bridges project on U.S. 95 south of Culdesac.
Without a doubt, his most memorable project, however, was far from the beaten path and wasn't even on a paved highway. Henson was responsible for designing a project that turned a 15-mile segment of Idaho 9 from gravel into a modern paved highway. He also participated in right-of-way acquisition for the project and was involved from start to finish – or from 1981 to 1985.
Henson occasionally shared his expertise with districts 1, 3 and 4, and spent more than a year as part of the D-1 design team for the Fourth of July segment of Interstate 90. He lived out of a suitcase and worked out of the Coeur d’Alene office, commuting home on weekends.
He also helped the district with the Sagle-to-Garwood GARVEE project, working on both ends – the Athol, Silverwood and Granite Hill areas on the south and Sagle on the north.
For two-thirds of his life, Henson has made the 20-mile, 25-minute trip from Juliaetta to Lewiston, wearing out about 10 vehicles in the process. “I’ll be very happy not to drive it in the winter,” he admits.
One of the few commuting exceptions came last month after a newly discovered heart condition. Henson spent all of November on extended medical leave, but he considers himself fortunate because he can treat the atrial fibrillation with medication rather than surgery or an implanted fibrillator.
After considering the options, Henson decided to retire while he’s still able to see more of the country than the Pacific Northwest. Retirement might include trips to Maryland and Arizona. “The only travel we have done is when our kids move away,” to such places as Nebraska and southern California, he explains.
Alice, who traded a daycare business for a volunteer job caring for grandchildren, looks forward to having her lifelong mate home. “I think it’s because she wants to put me to work,” Bud surmised.
But home projects might have to conform to his personal agenda – working in his shop and catching up on science fiction novels, appropriate for one who ends a career on the projected date the world will end.
Photos: Bud Henson, who has spent his entire 46-year career at ITD's District 2 office, will end his daily 20-mile commute today. Even a Halloween disguise in the 1970s couldn't keep him from his desk in the design section (bottom).