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Tony Drake Retires from NIEHS Facilities Engineering Branch

By Eddy Ball
March 2007

Tony Drake
In his final week at NIEHS, Drake was outdoors working on his backhoe in search of buried utility lines. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Tony Drake and the Facilities Engineering Branch
Drake (center) posed with some of his many friends and well-wishers at the Facilities Engineering Branch. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

On February 2, Pipe Fitter Tony Drake retired from NIEHS after 33 years of government service. Drake began his career with the Institute in 1973 as a plumber in the Office of Facilities Engineering. His work has taken him outdoors and between floors, installing and repairing the utilities that keep the Institute operating.

Drake began work when NIEHS was still temporarily headquartered on the North Campus in Building 6 and moved to the South Campus when the new facility opened nine years later. For much of his career at South Campus, Drake worked out of the 102 building where the Facilities Engineering Branch has its offices, store rooms and shops.

For 12 years (1984-1996) Drake worked a shift schedule as a utilities systems repairer-operator in the main building, but he returned to the Facilities Engineering Branch where he finished his NIEHS service as a pipe fitter. "I kinda got tired of the shift work," he commented, "so I came back over here, and that's where I've been ever since."

Moving on the next phase of his life, Drake said he will miss many things about his job at NIEHS. "I've enjoyed everybody here, and I hate to leave," he observed. "I've met a lot of people and made a lot of friends. It's been a wonderful place to work." The Institute has recognized Drake for his quality work over the years, and his job has taken him to nearly every part of the operation, giving him a chance to meet nearly everyone at NIEHS.

However, Drake said he won't miss the three hours he spent commuting every day in recent years. Although the Garner native lived during most of his NIEHS career in his hometown and in Apex, he and his wife, Kay, moved to their dream house on Lake Gaston a few years ago. Since then, Drake has driven 168 miles getting to and from work each day, dealing with the traffic on I-85 and spending increasing amounts of money for gasoline and maintenance.

After fours days of getting used to staying at home for a change, Drake, his wife and their two Labrador Retrievers took to the road for a series of trips in their motor home across the North American Continent. They traveled first to the North Carolina Coast to join his brother- and sister-in-law and then wound their way toward Florida by way of Charleston and Savannah, before driving west across the panhandle, through Alabama and Mississippi to Louisiana, and then back to Lake Gaston.

The Drakes intend to return to the road after a short break at home. Drake wants to drive north into Canada, spend some time in Nova Scotia and then make his way through Canada to Alaska. On the return trip east, the couple plans to take the northern route back across the United States before making their way back home.

In between their travels, Drake and his wife will visit their daughter, an attorney, and her family who live in Clayton. Drake plans to stay busy working around the house and at a part-time job to build up his Social Security earnings. He also has some quiet time scheduled on his porch overlooking the lake, and he'll almost certainly work in a little fishing time as well.

When he departed NIEHS for this more leisurely phase in his life, Drake offered some words of encouragement to his friends at NIEHS. "Keep up the good work that's been going on around here," he said. "Everybody just needs to hang in there, and their time will come too."

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