Goodbye Hi Lo’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 21, 2006

City backhoe operator enters retirement

By Geri McShane, assistant editor

Orien &8220;Hi Lo&8221; Loe saw many changes in his 40-plus years of working for the city of Albert Lea, but none so significant as in the equipment he used.

When Loe began working for the city’s sewer department on Nov. 1, 1964, most of the work was done by hand.

&8220;I moved dirt, but it was not with a backhoe,&8221; he said.

Loe’s beloved backhoe would come a few years later, and, of course, the Sewer Department would merge with the Water Department and become the Utilities Department.

And the department would grow. When he started, there were three full-time and two part-time employees in the Sewer Department, and five full-time workers in the Water Department. Combined, there are 14 employees today.

Loe officially retired Friday from his job, which included fixing water main breaks, service lines and storm inlets; replacing fire hydrants and water meters; doing jobs for the engineering department; and doing repairs at lift stations.

Don Eckart, Utilities Department superintendent, worked with Loe off and on for the last 30 years and was once his partner.

&8220;I learned more from him than anyone else on the job,&8221; Eckart said. &8220;I learned to work hard, but I also learned to have fun.&8221;

Eckart remembers trying on nearly a daily basis to get Loe to let him run the backhoe. Loe usually had some excuse why Eckart couldn’t that particular day.

Loe figures he had at least eight partners in his career. &8220;I was very fortunate to have good partners over the years,&8221; he said.

He recalled once having to call a fellow union member at night. He was hung up on three times because he identified himself as &8220;Orien&8221; and the union member didn’t recognize that name.

Loe got the name &8220;Hi Lo&8221; back when he was growing up and was a member of the Hartland 4-H Club. &8220;Kids either couldn’t remember what it was or pronounce it right,&8221; Loe said of his given name. &8220;So they’d say, Hi, Lo.&8221;

It stuck, and to this day, many don’t know Loe’s given name.

He knows retirement will be an adjustment. He’ll miss his co-workers and the activity involved, he said.

&8220;But I’ve got the guys covered, because I’ll go visit them,&8221; he said.

It’s much the same as he’s done over the years following time off. &8220;I’d get home from a vacation and have to go down to the city garage and see what’s going on,&8221; he said.

He truly loved his work, Eckart said.

&8220;He’s really a workaholic. He really likes working,&8221; he said. &8220;He’ll be missed.&8221;

As far as activity off the job, Loe enjoys fishing with his grandson and working on small engines. Although he doesn’t do a lot of traveling, he guesses he and his wife, Delores, will be taking a few trips.

The couple has two daughters. Brenda and her husband Stan Malepsy live in Albert Lea and have two children, Brittany and Cody. Rhonda Loe lives in California, but will be home this weekend for her dad’s retirement celebration.