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Everyday Hero Profile: Ned Arthur

Posted on Thu, Jan 20, 2022

Lynden is recognizing employees who make a difference every day on the job and demonstrate our core values, Lynden's very own everyday heroes! Employees are nominated by managers and supervisors from all roles within the Lynden family of companies.

Introducing Ned Arthur, Equipment Operator at Knik Construction in Alaska.

EDH Ned Arthur

Name:
Neil (Ned) Arthur

Company: Knik Construction

Title: Equipment Operator

On the Job Since: 1989

Superpower: Paving Pro

Hometown: Searsboro, Iowa

Favorite Movie: Roadhouse

Bucket List Destination: Italy

For Fun: Halibut fishing on his boat, smoking meat, and spending time with his 12 grandchildren

How and when did you start working for Lynden?
I worked at Harley's Trucking and Polar Paving, which later became Roadbuilders, a big outfit in Anchorage, and Quality Asphalt before I was hired by Jim Kirsch at Knik. Jim was a great guy and we had a lot of fun. In 1989 when I was first hired, we were working in Skagway right on the ocean. We had a big dock down there and an ore terminal. Yukon Alaska Transport was a new company to truck lead and zinc ore from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, to Skagway for loading on ships at the port. Knik bought its first asphalt plant and we paved around the terminal so it was easier to get the trucks in for ship loading. Jim, Lyle and Dale Kirsch were all people I worked with.

What is a typical day like for you?
If it's spring or summer I'm at work somewhere where Knik has projects going on. If it's winter I'm home. We work until it's so cold you can't work anymore or until snow makes paving too difficult. There have been times that I've had so many layers on that I can barely stand up!

Lately I've been working at the gravel pit. We have an asphalt plant set up there, and I run a loader when we're making asphalt. We usually make between 800 to 5,000 tons in a day and it comes out at 350 degrees. One day we had 35 belly dump trucks coming through from Anchorage and they went 80 miles to Homer.

I live in Sterling, AK in a log home we bought in 1986. A friend of mine sold it to me and what is now our living room was the original cabin. We put on a foundation, a loft and basement.

What has been most challenging in your career?
Working around heavy equipment you have to be alert. When loading and unloading barges you need to stay clear of booms and keep your eyes open. You can get hit if you don't know where you need to be. Also, in all the places we've traveled for projects, you never know what's coming. You have to adjust to different places, people and climates. Also, the climate can be tough. You're either cooking or freezing!

What are you most proud of in your career?
The Wake Island and Guantanamo projects. My wife Connie spent six seasons in Guantanamo Bay with me while we were working on that project. We were awarded the bid to do the runway, which was built on a big rock pile with cliffs all around it. It worked out well.

Can you tell us about your family and growing up years?
I grew up in Iowa, one of six kids in my family. I have an older brother and sister and two younger brothers and one younger sister. My dad was killed in a train accident when I was in sixth grade, so my mom had to raise us. We did everything we could to help my mom, and her parents helped too. My older brother moved to Alaska, so in 1977 I came up to check it out and never left.

I knew Connie from Iowa. She had two boys and worked at a restaurant that my mom managed in Grinnell. You could say my mom played matchmaker. We got married in Iowa then drove up the Alcan when her boys were about 9 and 10. We drove her Pontiac TransAm. We flew the boys up and they stayed with us in summers and went back down to Iowa for the school year. We had two daughters in Alaska, and now we have 12 grandchildren between all the kids.

What was your first job?
I worked at a filling station, pumping gas and changing oil when I was in high school. Once I graduated, I worked at a farm equipment manufacturing place for a couple of years. I was on an assembly line building pug mills that grind corn into animal feed.

What would surprise most people about you?
I took home a souvenir from a job site. I found a dead walrus on the beach near Platinum, AK. I decided to take it home to display the tusks in my house. I had to soak the skull to remove all the debris to get to the walrus teeth and tusks. My wife thought it was pretty strange, but I had the tusks mounted on a piece of walnut and it looks really good. One of the grandkids worshipped the walrus tusks.

How do you spend your time outside of work?
I'm always on the go. I don't like to sit around. When I'm in Knik's off-season during the winter months, I watch some of the grandkids. They range from age 2 to 15. I also like to watch football – the Minnesota Vikings are my favorite team. I've always liked them from the time I lived in Iowa. I also like to cook BBQ meat on my Traeger smoker and take my 22-foot boat out fishing with buddies from work.

I also have a 38' by 28'-foot shop where I like to work on car restoration projects. I have a Ford Ranger XLT pickup that I bought new in 1976 and drove in Iowa. It only has 100,000 miles, and I don't take it out here unless it's dry weather. It's kind of a hobby. I've had Camaros, Chevelles and Novas. My first car was a 1955 Chevy Bel-Air, red with a white top, that I bought from my brother. I had it for about 10 years then bought a 68 Chevelle. I've had a lot of cars over the years.

What do you like best about your job?
It's nice to look at something you helped to build and know it will be there for a long time.

Tags: Lynden Employees, Knik Construction, Everyday Heroes

Knik's smooth moves in McGrath praised by DOT

Posted on Tue, Nov 16, 2021

My Post - 2021-11-11T101927.158Knik Construction's crew is rumored to have paved the smoothest runway in Alaska on the McGrath Airport Runway 16-34, according to a test required by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (AKDOT&PF) for acceptance of the placement of asphalt. Each paving job has a specification and smoothness factor computed by a profilograph roughness test.

"Our reading was 0.15 on the McGrath Runway and the previous record was 0.9 according to the profilograph technician and the project engineer representing DOT," says Knik President Dan Hall. "We are proud of our crew's superb work."

Knik is completing the federally funded McGrath Airport Reconstruction and Erosion Protection project to reconstruct the pavement for runways, taxiways and the aprons, install erosion protection off the end of Runway 34, and replace the airfield lighting and signs. Knik was awarded the project in September of 2020 with a contract completion of September 2022. Knik has already barged in equipment, developed the Noir Hill Quarry, and hauled rock from the quarry to the project site to make the various materials needed to complete the project. Currently, Knik is reconstructing Runway 16-34 and Taxiway H which includes removing asphalt, replacing lighting, placing a foam asphalt base course, and repaving.

"Our crews fight weather and logistical challenges every day to get our projects completed throughout Alaska," says Dan. "Knik employees are skilled, resilient and build award-winning infrastructure. Crews also completed the Soldotna Airport Rehabilitation Project this fall. The resurfaced runway is now ready and open for air traffic for the City of Soldotna and the aviation community."

Tags: Knik Construction

Employees compete in sled dog races

Posted on Fri, Apr 30, 2021

Knik employee blog, sled dog racesCongratulations to Lynden-sponsored racers and Knik Construction employees Richie Diehl (above right) and Pete Kaiser (left), taking first and second place respectively in the Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog Race in February. The race route was changed this year to avoid contact with three remote villages for COVID-19 precautions. Richie won on the revised course with a record-breaking time of 36 hours and 8 minutes.

"This is a race I grew up on, and I love it. It's the biggest accomplishment in my mushing career right now," he says. Due to a schedule change he was also able to compete in and won the Bogus Creek 150 sled dog race three weeks earlier, which is customarily held the same weekend as the Kuskokwim 300.

Lynden Air Cargo transporting race dogsIn March, Knik employees Richie, Pete and Dakota Schlosser all battled harsh, negative degree weather while competing in the 2021 Iditarod. Richie placed ninth in his ninth race outing. Pete, who won the race in 2019, was forced to scratch out of precaution for his dog team's health. Dakota finished 35th in his first Iditarod race. The Iditarod course was also shortened this year due to COVID-19 restrictions with start and end points in Willow, AK. After the race, Lynden Air Cargo donated space on its Hercules aircraft for Iditarod race dogs flying from McGrath back to Anchorage. Pictured right, race dogs are carefully loaded into the back of the Herc.

In addition to his race wins, Richie has a new beer named after him at Old Man Rush Brewery in Eagle River, AK. The new IPA is called the Real Diehl. "We wanted to give Richie some help and sponsor him in some way," says Reid McDonald, owner of the brewery.

Tags: Lynden Employees, Alaska, Knik Construction, Community

Everyday Hero Profile: Taco Esquibel

Posted on Fri, Feb 19, 2021

Lynden is recognizing employees who make a difference every day on the job and demonstrate our core values, Lynden's very own everyday heroes! Employees are nominated by managers and supervisors from all roles within the Lynden family of companies. Learn more about the people behind your shipment.

Introducing Taco Esquibel, Superintendent at Knik Construction in Alaska.
Everyday Hero Taco Esquibel
Name: Taco Esquibel

Company: Knik Construction Co.

Title: Superintendent

On the Job Since: 1994

Superpower: Resilience

Hometown: Kingman, AZ

Favorite Movie: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Bucket List Destination: Pyramids of Egypt

For Fun: Snow machining, hunting, spear fishing and scuba diving

How did you start your career at Lynden?
It all started when I met Neil Arthur and Ray Henrichs at Road Builders in Soldotna. We were working in Seward, Tok, Delta Junction and other places. They talked about working for Knik. They said it was a great job and they were making good money. When Knik eventually acquired Alaska Road Builders a few years ago, it became a full circle for me.

I put in my application and then went and bought a pager (we didn't have cell phones back then) so I would be able to respond right away if he called. If I didn't get the job with Knik I was planning to go back home to Arizona or Nevada. I decided to call Knik and ended up talking with Dennis Fuchs. He gave me the right names and connections in Bethel, AK and soon I interviewed with Bill Hanson. He was working on the Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway project. He hired me and I went to work right away as a roller hand on that project. Jim Kirsch was running the paving. He was an awesome guy and one of my mentors. He figured out that I knew what I was doing with paving. There were 8 or 9 of us that were fulltime employees then. We did dirt work, crushing and paving and offloaded barges. It was so interesting to see Alaska – the 24-hour sunlight, the 16 to 18-hour days. For someone in their 20s, it was nice to be doing something completely different.

I couldn't even pronounce the names of the places where I was working, and being from Arizona, I had never been around barges in my life. The first thing I saw when I arrived by small plane to the job site was a big barge.

What is a typical day like for you?
It all depends on what we are doing and where we are. Night shift or day shift? Am I paving, or doing dirt work? Making rip-rap? No matter what the project, you are planning it out the night before. If we need to start work at 6 a.m. I'm up one or two hours before the crew making sure things are ready and in place. If we are rained out, or someone is sick, you need to plan accordingly. If I'm at my own house in Anchorage and on my own schedule, I can go into the office and get things going. If we are all together at a work camp onsite, project managers will meet the night before and get up early to start our 12 to 14-hour days. We are currently not working on any projects, but things will start up again in mid-April.

What has been most challenging in your career?
The weather and some of the locations where we have to figure out how to work within the elements and available materials. Wake Island, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Kotzebue, Nome, Shemya Island, Platinum. Bethel, McGrath, Sitka… flying in is the only option usually. It can be pretty spooky for someone with no flying experience to go into these places in small planes. Rick Gray is one of the best pilots I've ever seen in my life. He makes sure we all get there safely.

The weather can create challenges like equipment freezing up – think of a water sprayer – and rules in different parts of the state. Shemya is one of the worst places I've been for weather. We were there for almost two seasons and only saw sunlight four times. Foggy and rainy with wind blowing so hard you can't see more than 50 feet in front of you. The wind was 20 mph on an average day. Our job was reconstructing taxiways and runways. The first year we used a machine with GPS control to run the machines. The only way to control the level and depth of the paving in the old days was to use a wire. The new machine uses lasers and a computer program to do that work, but the wind in Shemya had other ideas. It interfered with the lasers and the program shut off. We figured out what was happening the first night. The wind was vibrating and throwing the laser out of balance and we had heavy fog that created damp conditions that interfered with the lasers, too. We got it figured out, but it was one of the most challenging projects we've done.

It's also tough to be away from home for long periods of time. I try to keep the crew together and having a good time when we are living in camps on a jobsite. I get to know everybody and their families. You could be the Michael Jordan of construction, but if you can't handle the living conditions, you won't make it. You learn how to be cordial to your coworkers 24 hours a day 7 days a week for months on end. You are eating, sleeping and working together so you get to be a team real quick. Depending on where we're working, we might not have TV, internet or cell phone coverage. It's a challenge, but all part of the job.

What are you most proud of in your career, most memorable project?
Dora Hughes (Knik HSSE Manager) and I worked on the Cape Nome project for five years without an injury. We worked with the native corporation handling explosives and dealing with big rock making rip-rap for breakwaters and jetties. You basically shoot the mountain to create rock, run a rock sorter and move the big rock where needed. We received awards and jackets for working safe.

I'm a perfectionist. Over the years if something is going wrong, I speak up and ask what's going on. Sometimes people on my crew don't like that, but later they will come back and say, 'you were right.'

Can you tell us about your family and growing up years?
I grew up poor, so I now appreciate things I have earned with hard work. I have an older brother and sister, and a younger brother, Mike Esquibel, who also works for Knik as an office engineer and surveyor. The rest of the family is back in Kingman, AZ. Growing up I loved playing sports; they gave you a reason to enjoy school! I played basketball and football. I had a couple of junior colleges that were interested in me for football, but I didn't think I had the academics to do it. My dad had a service station and we also ran a roofing business as a second income. My dad worked construction for the road system of Mohave County. My grandfather owned the Central Commercial Lumberyard in my hometown.

My father instilled a work ethic in me. I liked to party, but if we had a roofing job on a weekend, we had to leave at 5 in the morning because it gets hot by midday. I would get home about 3 or 4 a.m., and he would get me up to go roof just a few hours later. He always said, 'if you are going to play all night, you are going to pay all day.' My older brother helped, and two cousins helped, too. I graduated in 1988 and moved to Alaska in 1992. In between I worked as a bricklayer/hottie. I made the mortar and brought it to the bricklayers in a wheelbarrow. I also moved the blocks and stacked them up for the job.

I also worked on the road system in Arizona, traveling all over to different cities working. I would live in my vehicle while I was on the road. It was a great life for a young man.

Once a year I try to get home. I miss my family. My mom and dad have come up to see me in Alaska. My sister has two girls and my niece lived with me for two summers to work in Alaska and check it out up here. Last year I took my dad and niece elk hunting.

What was your first job?
Working at a service station after school.

What would surprise most people about you?
I like to make my own food. I fish for salmon, smoke it and then can it with my buddy and coworker Dan Swanson. We drink beer and smoke fish for two or three days each year. I also enjoy making jam. Wild raspberry bushes grow in my yard, so I harvest them and make jam from the berries. Also, I'm a metal head. My favorite music is heavy metal like Megadeath, Slayer, Metallica and some of the new stuff like White Zombie.

What are you most proud of?
I feel like I conquered life and have made a good place for myself in the world. I didn't have a thing when I hit the state of Alaska. Someone owed me money and didn't pay up, so I decided to try a fresh start. I drove up the Alcan with a man I met 15 minutes before who was coming up to see his family. When I showed up, I didn't know anybody. A lady was supposed to give me a place to stay and then didn't help me. My heart sank. The first thing I thought of was going to the Catholic Church. Luckily, the guy I rode up with helped me and I stayed with his brother. My life has been good in Alaska, but it took a long time to get to where I am now. After living in Arizona, my first winter in Alaska was a learning experience. I lived in a dome house and the first morning it was 45 degrees below zero!

Taco Esquibels CabinEventually, I built a cabin on two acres on Mackey Lake near Soldotna (pictured right). I spend as much time there as I can. I met some people that are homesteaders there across the lake, and they helped me with the construction along with a lot of friends. Lately, I have been getting into spearing pike in Mackey Lake instead of using a rod and reel.

What do you like best about your job?
The feeling of accomplishment in finishing a project. You do the work, and it's there for years for cars to drive over or planes to land on. You are making things that last. It's been interesting for me to see the changes in Knik over the years. We went from a few people doing it all to separate work groups for paving, dirt and crushing rock. I feel fortunate to have been part of Knik back in the day. I like being outside every day and seeing different places. It's also nice to work with good friends like Dan Hall, who started the month before I did.

Tags: Lynden Employees, Knik Construction, Everyday Heroes

Just another day in the Bethel neighborhood

Posted on Wed, Feb 03, 2021

Pete Kaiser with teamLynden Air Cargo Captain Daryl Smith took this photo of Peter Kaiser as he was training his sled dog team. Daryl lives in Bethel, AK and saw Pete from his house. "I thought it would be newsworthy since he works for Lynden and is an Iditarod champion," Daryl says. Pete works for Knik Construction and Bering Marine. He won the Iditarod in 2019 and has won the Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race multiple times. Pete has plans to compete in both the Kuskokwim 300 and Iditarod races again this year.

Tags: Bering Marine Corporation, Lynden Air Cargo, Lynden Employees, Knik Construction

Knik Health and Safety Manager Dora Mae Hughes receives Alaska Excellence in Safety Award

Posted on Fri, Dec 04, 2020

My Post - 2021-11-22T131356.483Knik Construction Health and Safety Manager Dora Mae Hughes (above) was selected as a winner of the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Alaska Excellence in Safety Awards in the Individual Category. "Dora was selected out of many of her industry peers for her approach to safety," says Knik President Dan Hall. "We clearly have an exceptional HSS manager and award winner on our team. What a great honor for Dora and Knik. This should lead us to a bright future with improving safety numbers."

Tags: Awards, Lynden Employees, Safety, Alaska, Knik Construction, Construction

Knik improves and maintains infrastructure in Alaska

Posted on Thu, Oct 08, 2020

Knik FlaggerSummer months are the busy season for Knik Construction and, this year, crews wrapped up two projects in Bethel, AK. The Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway and the Bethel Parallel Runway Airport projects.

The Knik team worked hard repairing Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway at the request of the Alaska Department of Transportation. Roads take a beating in Alaska with freeze and thaw cycles creating potholes and crumbled asphalt erosion. Improvements to the Bethel highway included work on corners, shoulders and the installation of six inches of foamed asphalt with another four inches of asphalt on top. Knik has also installed culverts and added topsoil and hydro-seeding.

"Our work to improve roads and airports is very important to the Alaska economy and the health and safety of Alaska residents. These projects keep communities connected and maintain and protect the routes necessary to deliver essential goods," says Knik President Dan Hall. "We are entrusted with vital infrastructure projects and our employees take this responsibility seriously. We make every effort to hire as many local people as possible and finish our projects on time and within budget." Pictured above, Knik Flagger Wilson Green directed drivers to the work site in Bethel. Wilson is a local Bethel resident hired to work on the Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway project.

Knik Bethel Airport ProjectKnik also continued a long-term project to install a parallel runway and three taxiways at the Bethel Airport (pictured right). The project was split into three phases. Crews were most recently working on Phase III which called for expanding the primary runway safety area to a width of 500 feet along its entire 8,400-foot length.

A secondary runway embankment was constructed with a 4,600-foot by 150-foot runway safety area. Crews developed two material sites on airport property to supply the work. Over 1,000,000 cubic yards of sandy-silt material was excavated and hauled from these two sources. In prior phases, Knik installed a new standby generator module, electrical service, new runway lighting and underground fuel storage tank de-commissioning among other improvements.

As a general heavy construction company, Knik specializes in complex, logistically challenging projects in hard-to-reach places like remote bush Alaska, Guantanamo Bay, Wake Island and Midway Island. Knik crews work seasonally depending on the work which may mean moving materials via waterways in summer and constructing ice roads in the winter.

In addition to construction projects, each year Knik processes over 100,000 tons of gravel, rock, sand and other aggregate at its Platinum Pit and Quarry in Bethel. Gravel is shipped to remote sites in Western Alaska and other parts of the world by sister companies Bering Marine and Alaska Marine Lines.

Tags: Bering Marine Corporation, Alaska, Knik Construction, Construction, AML

Congrats to Lynden's Pete Kaiser on fifth Kuskokwim 300 win

Posted on Fri, Mar 06, 2020

Pete Kaiser wins 5th Kuskokwim 300Pete Kaiser won the 41st running of the Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race in January. For the fifth time in six years, the Bethel local was crowned champion of what is called the toughest mid-distance mushing race in the world. Pete maintained a solid lead for the last leg of the race, so it was not a surprise when he pulled into the finish chute with his nine-dog team. Pete works for the Lynden family of companies, who are long-time sponsors of his racing career and Kaiser Racing Kennels in Bethel. At the finish line he was surrounded by family, friends and fans. "Lynden companies proudly sponsor Pete each year and his dedication and hard work are a true carryover from the job to the trail," says Knik President Dan Hall. Though the K300 is always competitive, Kaiser said that the field of elite mushers this year was especially fierce. "Dog teams are getting better and better and so are the drivers." Pete will be competing in the 2020 Iditarod which begins tomorrow, March 7, in Anchorage!

Tags: Lynden Employees, Alaska, Knik Construction, Community

Lynden's Knik Construction employees first responders on the scene

Posted on Tue, Jan 28, 2020

Cone 1200x630Soldotna Knik employees Pete Hoogenboom and Aaron Verba were on their way to a paving job in Whittier recently when they came across a head-on accident on the Sterling Highway in Alaska. "It was still dark and the roads were icy," Pete says. "We were first on the scene."

The lone driver in one car was already deceased, but the other vehicle contained three passengers who were still alive. The car was badly damaged and there was a risk of an electrical or engine fire. Pete and Aaron used a chain to bend the door open and a reciprocating saw to get to the door latch. They got two of the passengers out and into Knik's warm pickup until emergency services arrived. The third passenger in the car was badly injured with a broken back, hip, legs and feet. They wisely decided not to move her, but Pete stayed in the car with her, talking to her to keep her conscious for almost two hours until the life flight arrived to the remote area.

The American Red Cross of Alaska heard of Pete and Aaron's actions and named them in the 2020 Real Heroes Awards for being Good Samaritan Heroes in the video below.

"Their actions are nothing short of heroic," says Knik Estimator Sean McKeown, but Pete is reluctant to accept the title of hero. "We did the right thing, the same that we hope someone would do for our loved ones in that situation," he says.

"Great people do great things," agrees Knik President Dan Hall. "I couldn't be prouder of these two men."

Tags: Lynden Employees, Alaska, Knik Construction, Community

Everyday Hero profile: Ray Henrichs

Posted on Thu, Jan 16, 2020

Lynden is recognizing employees who make a difference every day on the job and demonstrate our core values, Lynden's very own everyday heroes! Employees are nominated by managers and supervisors from all roles within the Lynden family of companies. Learn more about the people behind your shipment.

Introducing Ray Henrichs, Equipment Operator for Knik Construction in Alaska.

Everyday Hero: Ray HenrichsName: Ray Henrichs

Company: Knik Construction Co.

Title: Equipment Operator

On the job since: 1990

Superpower: Resilience

Hometown: Soldotna, AK

Favorite Movie: Heat

Bucket List Destination: New Zealand

For Fun: Snowmobiling and spending time at his cabin in Caribou Hills on the Kenai Peninsula

How did you start your career at Lynden?
I was working for a paving company in Kodiak. A guy that worked with me was finishing the season running roller for Knik. He said they had a few weeks of work in Skagway for a screed operator. So I went to work for them at 24 years old. I flew up there and met Jim Kirsch. I got off the plane with long, bleached blond hair hanging down my back and I think Jim rolled his eyes when he first saw me. I grew up in the 80s and was a hair band/metal band guy. I had the hair to go with it. When I turned 40, I had 18 inches cut off. After I finished that first job with Knik, Jim told me there was more work for me if I was interested. It was a great job for a young man and it paid very well.

What is a typical day like for you?
Depending on the project, I may be traveling to a different location. If I am onsite at a camp, I wake up, eat breakfast and get to work.

What has been most challenging in your career?
Dealing with conditions at job sites. We have sub-zero temps, mud, ice, high winds, shifting earth or rock. Operating equipment safely while staying on schedule to get the job done is tough. Being gone for long periods with your work crew is sometimes a challenge for your family.

What changes have you seen over the years, either in business, customers or technology?
The evolution of equipment and technology is pretty cool. I totally blame my parents for my career choice. They bought me Tonka trucks when I was a kid and now the trucks, loaders and dozers are just bigger.

What project(s) are you most proud of?
We have had some projects in extremely remote spots where it is hard to get a barge into the site. A winter job in Chefornak near Bethel stands out in my memory. Our assignment was to move almost a million yards of dirt in five weeks to build a new runway. We had to strip a pit, get building materials to the site while dealing with freezing temperatures and ice. Other projects in St. Paul, St. George and the Pribilof Islands were also memorable.

A few years ago we needed to move a hovercraft from Anchorage to the slope. We took it apart in Anchorage in the spring. Some of the parts are tiny stainless steel nuts and bolts that come in a drum. Taking it apart wasn't bad but we had to re-assemble the hovercraft outside in Prudhoe Bay when it was blowing and below zero. It took us over a week to do it, but we got it done.

In 1995, we worked on an oil spill response project in the village of Chenega, off Prince William Sound. Part of the job was in the winter, and the next part in summer. We built the dock, a road, cleared trees, built a pad and put in water lines. It was instant gratification to look at all we accomplished. Working for Knik is that way – especially paving jobs. You spend an entire year building what's under that asphalt, then you pave it in a few days. Everyone sees only the top 2 inches, but you know what went into building that roadway. Years later you can look at it and say 'I did that.'

Can you tell us about your family and growing up years?
I have an adult stepdaughter from a previous marriage. She just moved to Idaho after graduating from high school. I grew up with four brothers in Soldotna. Most of my family moved down to Henderson, NV about 20 years ago, except for my dad who still lives in Alaska. He worked for BP for many years and just retired a few years ago. With five boys, we were put to work around the house – always had some project we were helping with.

When I was a kid, my family built a subdivision. I was hanging drywall at age 12 and digging ditches for culverts. We had a bunch of boys for free labor. My grandparents homesteaded in Soldotna in the early 1950s, so I grew up helping them build fence and bring in hay. I remember hiking down to the Kenai River and catching a fish with every cast.

I played baseball for awhile (third base and pitcher). My granddad taught me how to throw a curveball and a slider. He played in minor leagues in Texas in the 1930s. Once I got a car, I stopped playing and started working. I love cars. I had a 1974 Monte Carlo in high school. I bought a 1970 Camaro when I was in college and drove it up the Alcan to Alaska. At one point, I had a 1966 black-on-back Chevelle 4-speed with a 327 (engine). I am planning to attend the Barrett-Jackson car auction in January to see what I can find.

What was your first job?
My first job was working for my stepdad at a gravel pit. I learned my work ethic from him. I also worked in canneries, commercial fished a bit, worked at fast food and worked for the school district, doing the sound and light for the auditorium. I took anything that would pay.

What would surprise most people about you?
In 1984, I went to a specialty trade school in Southern California to learn computer programming. I graduated at the top of my class, but worked construction in Alaska in the summers and it paid more than an entry level job at Rockwell. I also disliked working indoors, so I abandoned that career. I am certified to program computer language like COBOL and Fortran. I was working with IBM mainframes, stacks of 16-inch disks and stacks of reel-to-reel tapes – all outdated stuff now.

I also like to cook and each year I host a New Year's Day brunch for 100 people at my cabin. I make Eggs Benedict and Bloody Mary's for all my friends their kids. I cook two prime ribs, two gigantic hams and use a couple hundred eggs to make the Eggs Ben. I have worked in bars before so I know how to mix drinks. I even worked the door at the Red Onion in Skagway at one point, checking ID and keeping an eye on things.

How do you spend your time outside of work?Ray Knik 1080x1080
I read a lot of books, do a lot of day and night hiking and spend time on my snow machines. I used to have seven, but now am down to three. When you work for a company like Knik, you work a lot of hours and basically just eat and sleep while you are at a remote project site. When you are off in the winter, you have time to really relax. I used to put 5,000 miles on my snowmobiles each year, but the snow isn't as good as it was and now I may ride only 1,000 miles a year. All my friends have cabins in Caribou Hills so we have a big circle that rides. I have been riding with their kids since they were 5 years old, and now we ride with their grandkids. I used to drag them out of holes when they got stuck, and now they are dragging me out!

What do you like best about your job?
I like working for a company that really makes me feel appreciated for the work I do and also gives me an opportunity to try new things. This year, I will be running an asphalt plant for Knik which I am looking forward to. This is a new job for me and I will be learning a lot while getting paid to do it. I also like the team aspect of working with other employees for long periods. We travel to projects as a crew and live in camps together for sometimes months at a time. The project managers are not above jumping in to help us out, which is another aspect I like about working for Knik. The managers get out of their employees what they put into their employees. This summer, we were shorthanded and needed someone to shovel and rake to help the screed operator. One of our managers was happy to help out. No job is below anyone at Knik.

Tags: Lynden Employees, Knik Construction, Everyday Heroes