Lufkin Industries worker going strong after 83 years

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - By Holley Nees - email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – It all started 45 years ago in the downtown shop at Lufkin Industries.

"I was looking for a high-paying job, that's one reason I came here," Leslie Durham said.

Durham, 83, has been at Lufkin Industries ever since.

"Time passes awful fast and when they told me, sent me a letter that says Leslie has been here 45 years, I didn't believe it," Durham said.

He installs brake assemblies on the gear boxes. His routine is like his work: a well-oiled machine.

"Each and every day I come to work, I know what I'm going to do," Durham said.

Durham says he comes to the plant every weekday morning and punches in at 6 a.m. and he doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon.

"I got to make a living," Durham said. "I got a responsibility and ain't nobody going to give you anything, I'll tell you that for sure."

He's seen the company through layoffs and, more recently, hundreds of new hires.

"When business got kind of slow, I was off for about one or two weeks, drawing unemployment, then they called me back and I haven't been laid off anymore since," he said.

Next to him on the line? His son. Dean Durham says his dad is a good example for the younger guys in the shop.

"He kind of makes it hard on them because he's out here working at his age and they're young and everything so they have to come on with it," his son said.

In a shop where a lot of material is shipped out, his boss says Durham is a fixture.

"I have not been able to throw much at him that he hasn't been able to complete," Russell Drapela said. "He's an inspiration to all my folks out here."

After years of 10-hour workdays, Durham says he could almost do the job in his sleep.

"If I can make it here, then I'm good for the day," he said.

So, Monday through Friday, and sometimes Saturday and Sunday, Durham comes back to the place where he's spent more than half his life.

Durham does not stop working after he clocks out. He also owns his own lawn-care business.

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