Headstone Captures Bond Between Lineman and Co-opBy Steven Johnson | ECT Staff Writer Published: April 22nd, 2014
A headstone at a Florida cemetery serves as a lasting reminder of the unbreakable bond between a line crew foreman and his electric cooperative.
David Compton worked for Clay Electric Cooperative for 42 years before losing a battle with cancer last September.
As a memorial, his wife Carol oversaw the design of a large headstone that displays an image of a utility truck Compton drove on the job, down to the same truck number and Clay Electric logo.
“Each year, he’d say, ‘I’m going to retire, I’m going to retire.’ And then he’d laugh and say, ‘Why retire when you love your job as much as I do?’ ” Carol recalled from the family home in Crescent City. “When he died, I thought that would be the perfect tribute.”
After all, the truck was a second home to Compton, who started at Clay Electric as a right-of-way laborer in 1972. He moved up to lineman in 1974, and capped his career as a line crew foreman in the Palatka District of the Keystone Heights-based co-op.
“David was a hard worker who had total respect from the employees he supervised,” said Jim Beeler, manager of the co-op’s Palatka District. “He was 100 percent committed to Clay Electric’s Safety Program and totally committed to exceeding our members’ expectations.”
Compton never knew about the headstone. After he died Sept. 22 at age 65, his wife worked with Kenny Biggs of Clayton Frank & Biggs Funeral Home to design the marker, which is at Eden Cemetery in Crescent City, a small community about 75 miles north of Orlando.
The process, done by laser engraving, took a few months before the headstone was put in place earlier this year. It depicts a wooded scene, symbolic of Compton’s love of the outdoors, with power lines, and frolicking dogs and deer.
The truck was hand painted exactly the shade of yellow as the Clay Electric vehicle, Carol laughed, befitting her husband’s meticulous nature.
“That’s the way he was with the people at work,” she said. “Do everything right. No errors, no mistakes. And safety was it with him. He wanted those boys protected. He didn’t want anyone getting hurt. He took that seriously, 100 percent.”
Carol said she marveled at her husband’s commitment to his job, particularly the hard work repairing systems ravaged by violent weather that menaced northern Florida.
“I don’t know how he did it. I do not know how he could stand the rain, the weather, the heat,” she said. During one tropical storm in 2006, Compton restored service for others, returned home between shifts to a house without electricity and slept outside on a porch.
Vacation was not part of his vocabulary, either. Clay Electric frequently admonished him to take off a personal day, because he regularly bumped up against the maximum accrued leave time of 1,000 hours.
“He was always doing for people,” Carol said. “People would have problems at their homes with their electrical, and he’d run right over there and help them when he was off duty. People needed fencing done and he’d go right over there and help them. Need to take cattle to market? He’d go get their trailers and take the cattle to market.”
Compton was busy as ever when he was diagnosed with cancer in late June. He underwent chemotherapy, as doctors tried to shrink a tumor on his liver, before cancer claimed his life three months later.
Knowing David’s ways, Carol chuckled about the fuss he probably would have raised over the $14,000 cost of the headstone.
“That I do know because he was a penny-pincher,” she said. “He was so well loved. It was a tribute to him and to Clay Electric.”