Dan Wedel is now 68, and finally decided to retire from King Construction after a 50-year career in construction.
Dan Wedel was hired by King Construction right out of high school. Then 18-year old Wedel sorted rocks, by hand, at the Hesston disposal plant while a water tank was being constructed.That was in 1958. Wedel is now 68, and finally decided to retire from King after a 50-year career in construction. “This wasn’t always the easiest job,” Wedel said after a retirement reception last week at King’s offices. “But these are real good people to work for. You have to remember every place has its ups and downs.”Wedel is retiring from his job as a supervisor. He oversees four different bridge-building crews for the company and will continue on a limited basis as a consultant. It’s hard to leave a job a person has worked for a half century, even if it’s almost by accident that the job lasted that long. “I don’t know why someone would work someplace for 50 years,” Wedel said. “It really wasn’t planned. ... This just happened, I can’t really explain it. I have looked back on it, and I can’t say I wanted to do anything say I wanted to do anything else. I’ve always wanted to be outside, and this is never repetitive.”Wedel never planned to stay in construction for a lifetime. During his 50 years with the bridge building company, Wedel has seen nearly every corner of the state. The company also has had the occasional Oklahoma or Nebraska project mixed in as well. “We have been out in all conditions,” Wedel said. “I can still remember a site where it kept getting colder throughout the day, not warmer. We had to get crews in to close it up and heat the site to save the bridge deck.”In retirement, he will still be able to get outside in whatever conditions he chooses. Both he and his wife said their 3-acre yard and garden are in need of his attention now that he has time. “He has a lot of things he likes to do, and now he can do those,” said Jeanette Wedel, Dan’s wife. “He’s been gone a long time.”Long enough he can see some definite changes in the company, especially during the summer months. “We used to have a lot of college kids work during the summers,” Wedel said. “We don’t have as much of that anymore.”Wedel said the 20-somethings have more options when looking for summer work and internships. And he knows the construction industry isn’t seen as one of the more “glamorous” industries to work in. “I probably felt like that for a while too, but I got over that,” Dan said. “We’re important, too. ... I was taught that no matter what, you put in a full day’s work. If you didn’t like the job, you could change jobs.”And while he could change jobs under that ethos, he never did. “I built a bridge for the Union Pacific over the Big Blue River at Marysville,” Wedel said. “That was probably the most fun I’ve had here. I have always enjoyed the challenge. ... I can remember in the early days we would have wagers to see who could get their steel work in first and start pouring concrete first.”Wedel still likes being on the job site. He says he tries to “go out and play” a little when he can. But like the way the company builds bridges, his job has changed during his 50 year career. Now he’s in the office more — unless there is concrete being poured and he wants to be at the site. “It’s not like it used to be,” Dan Wedel said. “It’s not as physical. I used to laugh at people who said they were mentally tired. I thought, ‘What do you mean, mentally tired?’ But I think it takes longer to recover from mental tiredness than physical tiredness.”