Thrice-told tales

Posted: March 28, 2014 - 3:33pm

Donna Bennett, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering: My grandfather, Dewey, was a guard at K‑25. Like our guards nowadays he was in the military (U.S. Marine Corps). My dad, Curtis, was a pipefitter and retired from Y‑12 after 33 years. My mother, Dot, briefly worked as a secretary for the Atomic Energy Commission. Dad used to tell about the time he and some coworkers were working on the plumbing, and the air pressure blew some lady off a toilet. There were no injuries, but probably embarrassment and laughter ensued. Dad talked about the Y‑12 engineers all the time, sometimes good, sometimes bad, but always with respect. An aptitude test I took in the 1970s told me to consider being an engineer if I was a boy and a math teacher if I was a girl. My sister, former Y‑12 Ethics Officer Gail Sewell, said I didn't have to be a boy to be an engineer. That comment stuck with me, and I became a mechanical engineer and the first in my family to earn a college degree.

Christina Butcher, Career ONE: My father is an engineer at Y‑12, and his father, Wade, was an electrician. When I was a child, my family would attend the Oak Ridge Christmas parade. One year Dad was paged to go to Y‑12 to handle a problem. My mom, sister and I stayed until the parade ended, and then we walked home. Dad encouraged me to try engineering because it had more job opportunities, so I went into chemical engineering. I was a college intern at Y‑12 and that piqued my interest in employment here. When Dad gave a presentation at my college on nuclear engineering and Y‑12, I became interested in working at a nuclear facility. I worked nine months with him in Enriched Uranium Operations.

Bill Grove, Development. My grandfather, Ben; my mother, Sarah; and my uncle, Bill, worked at K‑25. My grandfather and uncle were electrical engineers, and my mother was a keypunch operator. After my grandfather retired, he bought a computer that had FORTRAN. I later majored in computer science.

Brad Hodges, Development: My father is a project analyst at Y‑12, and my grandfather was a Y‑12 electrician and later a K‑25 electrician and utilities supervisor. My grandfather helped install the calutrons at Y‑12. At K‑25 he worked on the power-house installation. He retired after 36 years. During World War II my grandfather worked overtime, using the extra money to buy war bonds. Once day, driving to a building to handle a "top priority," my grandfather missed his turn. Instead of backtracking, he went on to his next assignment. As he arrived, alarms sounded in the area he was supposed to visit first. If he had not missed his turnoff, or if he'd gone back after realizing his oversight, he would have been in a nuclear radiation contamination field, which would have been his Waterloo. I chose engineering because I liked understanding how things work and enjoyed working on cars. Plus, it made money. I enjoyed being a co-op student at Y‑12 and became an employee after graduation.

Neville Howell, Development: My step-grandmother, Effie, was an office manager in Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project and was awarded a certification by the U.S. War Department Army Service Forces —: Corps of Engineers Manhattan District for her participation in work essential to the successful conclusion of World War II. My father, Layton, was an engineer in the Engineering Division and badged to Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The division supported K‑25, Y‑12 and ORNL, and personnel freely moved among the sites as assignments dictated. He was a group leader and project manager, and he worked on various projects and traveled regularly. The engineers and scientists I met when growing up were diverse and very intelligent. The variety of work and interesting people were big factors in my choosing an engineering career.

Kevin Lamb, Development: My father, Ernie, is an electrical engineer in Facility Design, and my great-grandfather, Willis, was a construction worker, laborer and machinist from the 1940s to mid-1960s. He first worked on site construction. He moved the family to this area as government control of the city loosened. I never knew my great-grandfather, and my dad was very good at letting me find my own way and not influencing my decisions too much, so my experiences as a co-op student influenced me the most toward Y‑12. I had other work experiences through college internships and projects, but Y‑12 allowed me to do actual engineering work.

Jeff Parrott, Development: My grandfather, Elwood, was a World War II veteran employed in the Y‑12 Utilities Administration. He appears in the historical "Shift Change" wall mural photo in the Jack Case Building. My father, Norris, was a Korean War veteran who worked 36 years as a metallurgist in Development. As a youngster, I never heard much about what they did at Y‑12. However, that all changed in the '80s, when I became a co-op student for Development. I can still remember the first time I walked into my father's office. He showed me the foundry and weld lab and the work he had done several years earlier on welding a moon box for an Apollo mission. I was very impressed, and he was proud to have me there. Still, he wanted me to become a lawyer, even though I had wanted to be an electrical engineer since I was a kid. So I prepared to attend law school, but at the last minute I convinced him I wanted to work at Y‑12 in a technical field I thought I was good at, electrical engineering. He later agreed I'd made the right decision. I'm proud of my family's contributions to the goals and missions of Y‑12. As an employee for 25-plus years, I hope to continue that tradition by doing my part in supporting the current mission and helping to make the world a safer and better place.