This New Brunswicker has spent 50 years trying to keep province's highways in shape

·3 min read
Although it can involve a lot of standing and watching, longtime highway worker Philip Duplisea says he's enjoyed his 50 years on the job. (Gary Moore/CBC - image credit)
Although it can involve a lot of standing and watching, longtime highway worker Philip Duplisea says he's enjoyed his 50 years on the job. (Gary Moore/CBC - image credit)

The week after Philip Duplisea graduated from high school, the 18-year-old landed himself a full-time job in New Brunswick's transportation division. Fifty years later he's still working there.

"It's a lot of standing and watching," he said with a chuckle on a wet morning on Route 3 near Fredericton.

On this day, wearing a blue hard hat and a bright orange safety vest, Duplisea was supervising his crew as they laid a fresh stretch of asphalt on the road.

He watched as his team slowly guided traffic safely through the construction zone around large machinery.

Exacting standards

Once the construction vehicles moved past him, Duplisea took out his measuring tape to make sure the new pavement was laid to the exact millimetre it's supposed to be, from the shoulder of the road.

Talking to the 68-year-old man from Geary, it was clear that no matter how tedious the work, he wouldn't have done his career with the Transportation Department any other way.

"I've enjoyed it, I've had lots of different jobs with the department," he said.

Gary Moore/CBC
Gary Moore/CBC

Duplisea started his career operating construction machinery in the summer and driving highway plows in the winter.

Eventually, he worked his way up to a supervisory position, which is what he does today.

Whatever job Duplisea is doing, he takes pride in his work.

"If there's a snowstorm starting in the middle of the night, you got to check out the window every hour," he explained. "You've got to get out and make the roads safe for the traffic the next day."

Duplisea judges a good day's work by looking at a fresh stretch of pavement.

'Nice and smooth' the goal

"When you're done a paving job — it's nice and smooth — you're proud that you were involved in it. If it's not good, you don't want to put your name on it."

Working on the province's highways has come with its dangers too.

Duplisea was hit by a car in 1999, while he was removing pavement on a stretch of highway near Nackawic.

A car passed a transport truck in the construction zone that was marked "Do not pass." The car struck Duplisea's leg.

"When I landed, I hit his windshield and I was down on the ground until the ambulance got there," he recalled, adding that the accident ruined his knee.

But it didn't stop his commitment to the job. He was back to work 10 days later.

Life of commitment

Duplisea has another long relationship though it's not quite as long as his working career.

He's been married to his wife, Avis, for 48 years. They raised four children and have nine grandchildren.

Duplisea jokingly brushed off questions about which, work or marriage, had more challenges over the years, but said he was fully dedicated to his family on the weekends, when he wasn't at work.

"I never picked up any hobbies — I didn't golf. So on the weekends, it was my wife and kids."

"My philosophy was: I'm gone all week, whatever was on the weekend was family."

Duplisea plans to work for at least two more years before he hangs up his hard hat and safety vest.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting