La Grange Public Works employee retires after 37 years
Jerry Nichols, who is retiring after 37 years, at the Publics Works Department in La Grange. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 7, 2013 6:03AM
LA GRANGE – On balmy days, Jerry Nichols will be heading for the open road after keeping La Grange’s roads, sewers and pipes in good shape for 37 years. Nichols, 62, of Crest Hill, retired in November, after working behind the scenes in the village’s former Water Department since 1975, which was combined with the Public Works Department in 1988.
Q. What was a typical workday like?
A. I start at 7 a.m., but I usually get here at 5 a.m. When the YMCA was here, I used to work out from 5 to 6:30 a.m. Now I watch TV in the mornings, make coffee and relax a little. Then I’m ready to go at 7 a.m. But if something happens, they know they can call me for salting a bridge or some emergency. I work out after work at a gym near my house.
Q. What did you do in the Water Department?
A. I installed water meters, fixed leaks and took water samples. We mixed well water with softener when we had the water plant, which had to be manned 24 hours a day. The village began buying Lake Michigan water from Chicago in 1984, and the Water Department was phased out by 1988. When we reversed the flow of water in the pipes with the lake water, we’d get three leaks at a time. We had leaks all the time on La Grange Road.
Q. Any scary moments on the job?
A. I was fixing a leak in a water main on Gilbert north of Cossitt in hole that was 14 feet deep. I looked up and saw the surface. That’s the fastest I ever fixed a leak. Now we have boxes to put in the hole for safety.
Q. What did you like about being in Public Works?
A. It’s always different. One minute you’re picking up leaves, and the next hour, you’re knee-deep in mud, or putting up holiday decorations. Those 90-degree days laying asphalt were something, but I like to sweat anyway. I was a jack of all trades.
Q. What did you do before coming to La Grange?
A. In 1969, I served in Vietnam in a helicopter battalion. I was supposed to be in supplies but ended up having a lot of combat duty. After the Army, I was a cook for a year at a restaurant in Westmont, and then I worked in Public Works in Downers Grove.
Q. What are your plans after retirement?
A. I love to cook, especially breakfast. And I’ll be seeing more family. My second wife and I have five grandchildren.