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Missouri Department of Transportation

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MoDOT News Release 

For more information, contact Sally Oxenhandler, Community Relations, (573) 751-7456

March 08, 2007 12:00 AM
Oldest MoDOT Retiree is 104

JEFFERSON CITY- Over the past century, there have been plenty of advancements and changes in the way our world works, and Abner Gwinn has been here to see them all.  At 104 years old, Gwinn, of Jefferson City, is the oldest living retiree of the Missouri Department of Transportation.  

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1925 with an engineering degree, Gwinn's first job was with the Missouri Highway Department, now known as MoDOT.  He first worked in Kirksville, designing and supervising the building of concrete highways.  A promotion in 1926 sent Gwinn all over the state as a project engineer working where needed.  Although Gwinn traveled the state for his job in the 1920s, "today's interstates would shock him out of his gourd," his wife, Opal, said.  "There was nothing like I-70 or I-55 then."    

Gwinn's first stint at MoDOT was redirected during WWII.  During that time, he worked at Fort Leonard Wood, designing and building barracks to house German prisoners of war that had been captured during the North African campaign.  At the end of WWII, Gwinn left the highway department to become director of the Missouri State Parks system.  A few years later he was back with the Missouri Highway Department with the newly organized Highway Safety Program.  He continued working for MoDOT until 1968, when he retired at age 66. 

"He is still very much a gentleman and a civil engineer," said Opal, who married Gwinn in 1973.  "He'll study the placement of things and line them up and make sure they're straight.  He'll never lose that."

Abner Gwinn stopped driving at age 88, but his wife says, "He was a good driver.  He knew the highways."

 "I don't know of a better subject for 104.  He's sharp as a tack," added Debbie Mincher, a close family friend who cares for the Gwinns.

"It's people like Abner Gwinn who have enabled MODOT to provide quality service to the citizens of Missouri for so many years," said MoDOT Director Pete Rahn.  "Our hats are off to Mr. Gwinn for his commitment to MoDOT and transportation in Missouri."

Editor's note:  High resolution photos of Abner Gwinn can be found on MoDOT's Web site at  www.modot.org/newsroom.

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