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Retiree looks for ‘something else to do’ after working 60 years

by on August 22, 2013

(Story by Stephen J. Ostrander)

Most people who retire after working 60 years are bone-tired, looking for a soft landing and wondering why they didn’t take it easier earlier. Allen Doubrava has none of those symptoms or regrets. Ease is not in the 79-year-old Texan’s plans. He’ll keep toiling, he says, to stay fit, alert, useful and alive. If he is breathing, he is working.

At his recent retirement party, Allen  Doubrava received a kilt (gag gift) to complement the helmet, steel-toed boots, camouflaged leggings and fire-retardant shirt he wears to work.

At his recent retirement party, Allen Doubrava received a kilt (gag gift) to complement the helmet, steel-toed boots, camouflaged leggings and fire-retardant shirt he wears to work.

On June 1, 2013, for the second time, Doubrava “began looking for something else to do” (retirement is not in his vocabulary) six decades to the day after being hired on as a distribution lineman in Alice, Texas for Central Power & Light (CP&L), the predecessor of AEP Texas. The occasion of his first “retirement” occurred in October 1994 after working more than 40 years for the utility as a substation technician, substation foreman, superintendent of Central Power’s division of substations and transmission lines, and fleet operations manager. But within two months he had a contract to mow and tidy up AEP substations from Brownsville to Del Rio and Bay City; so he stayed in the AEP orbit.

Beyond that, Doubrava (right, at his retirement party) kept managing the family farm near Beeville, about 50 miles northwest of Corpus Christi, raising 100 cattle, harvesting 12,000-16,000 round hay bales a year and leasing another parcel (activities involving his brother and sons).

“I grew up on a farm where there was always work to do; so I just want to keep active,” explained the Corpus Christi resident, who steadfastly believes that physical and mental decline follows retirees who enjoy inactivity.

Doubrava eventually returned to utility work (along with the ranch and mowing business), initially as a transmission contract representative (TCR) to install metering control houses for Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), and then, since 1995, as a hired TCR for AEP Transmission.

“I enjoyed working with Allen because he excelled in both substation and transmission line construction,” said Michael Glueck, a project manager for AEP Transmission. “I really valued his expertise and friendship. We worked on some difficult and unusual projects.”

Those difficult projects included installing submerged 138-kilovolt (kV) transmission cables in the Corpus Christi ship channel, an activity involving directional drilling, and a recent removal of a submerged 69-kV line from the shipping channel. Other projects relied on helicopters for constructing 69-kV lines in wetlands.

Doubrava left the AEP scene the second time feeling proud of his contribution on a major project—the live-line re-conductoring of two 345-kilovolt transmission lines running between Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande Valley. It is the largest and most complex “re-conductoring-while-energized” project in AEP history.

At his recent retirement party, Doubrava received a lamp wired to an old electro-mechanical meter which still operated when plugged into a socket, and a kilt (gag gift) to complement the helmet, steel-toed boots, camouflaged leggings and fire-retardant shirt he wears to work (see photo).

Doubrava promised his wife of 57 years, Leroyce, he would slow down, but then he immediately “began looking for something else to do.” Never one to burn bridges, Doubrava wrote Glueck an e-mail, “After a good night’s sleep and a day’s rest, I’ve decided I should not retire. Can I come back to work? See my attached application and let me know what you think.”

And there’s the maturing “to do” list, which his daughter says will require him to live a few more decades. “I got other stuff to work on now,” he said, satisfied.

And then there are the farm chores.

From → Retiree Profiles

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