The number 50 is significant for CIRI shareholder Dan Corey. Not only has his career in Alaska construction spanned more than 50 years, even now working on CIRI and Eklutna Inc.’s Birchwood industrial development project, he and his wife recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
Dan, a lifelong Alaskan, was born in a small log cabin next to railroad tracks 12 miles outside of Palmer, Alaska.
Dan’s daughters, CIRI shareholders Lauri and Terri Corey, have many fond childhood memories of their father.
“The family would go to the construction jobs during the summers in Valdez, Big Delta and Fairbanks,” said Lauri. “We lived in a camper during the summers. When Dad was within driving distance from home, he would drive all night to Palmer from Big Delta or Valdez just to take us kids on a picnic on his only day off. He would leave late Sunday night or very early Monday to be back to work. So no matter how many hours a day he put in, if he had the time it was always spent with the family.”
Dan’s time with his family wasn’t limited to the summer.
“Even in the winter the family would get together, we would ride snow machines to Wishbone Lake to go ice fishing; Dad used a hand auger to drill holes in the ice,” said Lauri. “We would build a campfire and drink lots of hot chocolate while fishing on the lake.”
Dan has worked in construction since 1957 as a cat-skinner (bulldozer operator). He worked during the summers for the Operating Engineers Local 302 and for seven winters worked with the United Coal Workers Union. Dan has been involved in many of the landmark developments in Alaska, helping to build such projects as the Parks, Glenn and Richardson highways, both phases of the Ted Stevens International Airport, the Kenai, Dillingham and Sitka airports and more.
Dan worked for the Department of Transportation Local 71 for thirteen years until he retired. He was recently asked to come out of retirement by Granite Construction to work on the Eklutna/CIRI industrial park development project in Birchwood, Alaska.
“To pay for gas in the motor home,” Dan joked.
Dan is operating a D9R Caterpillar on the project, helping to build a railroad spur and developing the site.
Dan’s commitment to his profession is symbolized by his unique watch, created from gold he recovered and shaped into a bulldozer and truck.
Dan started a family tradition of heavy equipment operators, now in its third generation with his grandson, Derek Barickman. Dan’s late brother Herb Belanger was also an operating engineer and the first training director/manager of the Alaska Operating Engineers Employers Training Trust apprenticeship program in Palmer, Alaska, which opened in 1989 and is rated one of the top programs in the industry in the Northwest.
When asked what in particular he valued about his long career, Dan answered, “I appreciate the construction industry that kept me employed to provide for my family all my life. I appreciate that people realize that we need gravel pits to make material to build the foundations for buildings out of concrete, asphalt for paving our roads and driveways and the sand in the winter that keeps us safe on icy roads. This industry employs a lot of people around our state.”
Throughout the span of his career, family was and has remained very important to Dan and his wife Jackie. Their 50th wedding anniversary on May 9 was commemorated cookout style with more than 150 friends and family members.
Now in retirement, Dan enjoys road trips with his wife; they travel throughout Alaska, from Seward to Fairbanks. He loves to go four-wheeling and enjoys the seeing the backcountry while caribou hunting during the fall and snowmobiling in the winter.