Road worker killed on freeway buried in orange Caltrans shirt: Roadshow

Mr. Roadshow notes: Caltrans recently held a memorial service for the 189 Caltrans workers killed on state roads since they started tracking such tragedies nearly 90 years ago, as well as the thousands of workers and motorists injured or killed over that period. The following piece was written by Russell Snyder, a former Caltrans employee, now executive director of the California Asphalt Pavement Association.

Juan Thome was a 47-year-old maintenance worker who, according to family and friends, was the most loyal and proud Caltrans worker you’ll ever meet. He often wore his orange Caltrans shirt on days off, and would tell anyone who would listen about the importance of highway maintenance and safety. At his funeral his in 1993, his wife his, Christine, shared many of those stories to a church filled with people wearing orange shirts, all also wearing black armbands. She shared with the “sea of ​​orange” that her husband would be buried in his orange Caltrans shirt his.

At a special Highway Worker Memorial ceremony held at the Capitol in Sacramento recently, acting Caltrans Director Seven Keck, looked out at the sea of ​​orange and got emotional when he said it was the most important thing he will do all year.

One of the speakers at the memorial was Christine, who spoke eloquently of her husband’s dedication to his job, much the same way she had done at his funeral. I made my way over to her and reintroduced myself. I said I had written about her husband her in the employee newsletter. She gave me a broad smile and thanked me for remembering.

The ceremony included a Caltrans color guard procession and the passing of a black cone, representing those who lost their lives on the highway.

When I joined Caltrans, I soon learned of the perils faced by workers handling construction and maintenance on the state highway system, where seemingly every other driver is in a hurry and not enough paying attention. I found myself reporting too often about lives cut short on our highways.

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