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Clothier is first civilian to cross new bridge

Bill Clothier smiles just after crossing the bridge on Tuesday morning. Clothier has been a regular at the construction site and has gotten to know several members of the crew. (Star Gazette photo by Chad Richardson)

When construction started on the new Hastings bridge a few years ago, workers kept seeing a familiar face appear. He was hard to miss -- on his little scooter, Bill Clothier stood out from the crowd. He'd show up every day (weather permitting), ask questions, poke around and make jokes.

Over the years, members of the crew gave Clothier his own construction vest. Then they outfitted that little scooter of his with a bright orange flag so they could always see where he was.

None of that, though, compared to the special treatment that he got on Tuesday morning.

Clothier was the first civilian to cross the new Highway 61 bridge in Hastings. He was driven across in a truck by none other than Doyle Honstad, the project manager from Lunda Construction.

"He looks like a little kid," said Clothier's daughter, Jane Wolters, just before the two crossed the bridge. She was in the backseat of the truck Honstad drove.

"I'm really amazed at the niceties shown to me," Clothier said. "It's an honor to be the first civilian to cross it."

Clothier, 81, grew up in Denmark Township. This was the third bridge in Hastings he has crossed, having entered the city on both the Spiral Bridge and the current Highway 61 bridge as well.

"This one's going to be a dandy," he said.

Clothier has made the eight-minute trip via scooter so many times, he's even got a girlfriend out of the deal. Annette Wigton is an equipment operator who is happily married to Stan Wigton, the bridge superintendent. Both work for Ames Construction.

Both are avid walleye anglers who often times make trips to North Dakota to wet a line. Many times when they return from a successful trip, they'll share some of their catch with Clothier.

"(Annette) doesn't share fish with everybody," Stan Wigton said. "I know that."

"I don't get any," joked Honstad as he listened in.

Fresh walleye isn't the only perk that Clothier has been able to dine on. One other time, he was given a basket full of cherry tomatoes.

On Tuesday morning, just after he had that big ride across the bridge, he met up with Stan Wigton and then Annette, too. Both posed for photos with him, and as Annette was getting ready to get back to work, Clothier planted a kiss on her cheek. She vowed to get him some more walleye, then she headed off as duty called.

Honstad was certain he'd see Clothier back at the bridge site the next day.

"He's spent the last few summers over there, supervising the Ames crew," he joked. "I told him he was cheap for a consultant."