Worthington resident retires after 65 years in road constructionWorthington resident Loren Goettsch defies the odds
WORTHINGTON — It is a rarity these days for someone to work in the same profession for more than 20 years, but Worthington resident Loren Goettsch has defied the odds. For the past 65 years, he has labored in road construction — mostly driving a motor grader to smooth out township gravel roads and to prepare aggregate for blacktop or concrete surfaces.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — It is a rarity these days for someone to work in the same profession for more than 20 years, but Worthington resident Loren Goettsch has defied the odds.
For the past 65 years, he has labored in road construction — mostly driving a motor grader to smooth out township gravel roads and to prepare aggregate for blacktop or concrete surfaces.
“Some of the streets (in Worthington), it’s been the third time I’ve worked on them,” he said.
At age 82, Goettsch officially parked the motor grader this fall. With a recent diagnosis of polymyalgia and increased difficulty in climbing on and off equipment, he figured it was time to devote his life to hobbies, including fishing and woodworking.
“They have these young guys now,” he said as he sat at his dining room table Monday afternoon. “I think maybe I can’t keep up with them.”
Goettsch began his career in road construction at the mere age of 16. His father was a lifelong road man, and Goettsch started out on a Caterpillar pulling his dad with a pull blade during construction of the Gay Drive-In in Worthington. Art Paine was their employer back then Before they worked for Paine, Goettsch said his family moved around like gypsies — travelling from town to town as jobs became available. Born in Hardwick, Goettsch attended five different schools before his high school graduation.
During World War II, Goettsch left Minnesota behind to serve his country as a Seabee with the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific. He did mostly dozer and truck work while in the construction battalion. When he returned to the states, he worked for Lowe Construction Co., of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, doing highway construction throughout the Midwest.
After another stint in the military, Goettsch moved to Worthington in 1958 and formed Worthington Construction Co., with his brother, Bob.
“I think Bob and I did just about every housing addition in Worthington,” he said, listing off the Eckerson, Roos, Appel, Johnson and Homewood Hills developments, among others. “We worked on the high school, football field, junior college … and the airport.”
About 80 percent of their work, however, was in conservation — constructing things like terraces, waterways and dams.
The brothers remained business partners until 1976, when Tom Murphy established a construction company in town.
“Tom was just starting up a company … and he said, ‘I’ll take the blade if you come with it,’” Goettsch recalled. He made the deal, and worked for Tom, and later Suzanne Murphy at Worthington Excavating, until his retirement.
“When Tom died, Suzanne took over and asked me to stay on for five years, but it’s been longer than that,” he said.
When Goettsch began his career in road construction, hydraulic technology was not a standard feature on heavy equipment — that didn’t come along for several years.
“I ran one of the first rubber-tired scrapers — it was called a Wheeler, made by Corring,” he said. “They were nothing like we have now, but they did the job.
“Now, they’re into GPS, which has been very interesting,” he added. “I’m glad I got to work in that technology. The last two years were the first years in my life I worked in air conditioning.”
Working six and a half decades in road construction has been anything but boring for Goettsch.
“I love it and I still do,” he said. “It was one of those deals where I enjoyed going to work every morning. Every day is different.”
During the winter months, Goettsch found road work in states like Florida and California to keep him busy. During the 1980s, he and his wife, Jeanne, lived in Hayward, Wis., where he spent the winter months grooming portions of a 500-mile snowmobile trail system. They’d spend the road construction season in an apartment in Worthington before moving back to the community for year-round residence about 10 years ago.
Goettsch said it was his fellow employees that kept the job interesting and fun over the years.
“I’ve always been very proud of my profession,” he said. “They may not all be college-educated people, but what they do with machines is unreal. What these guys do with trucks, dozers and heavy machinery is really something.”