June 24, 2003 11:00 pm
FOR THE LAST TIME:Lewis Batty rolls into town for the last time as a Union Pacific engineer Friday and waves to his family waiting for him at the crossing. ().
FOR THE LAST TIME:Lewis Batty rolls into town for the last time as a Union Pacific engineer Friday and waves to his family waiting for him at the crossing. ().

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

Last week was a busy one for Lewis and Ruth Ann Batty of La Grande.

On Thursday, she retired from 12 years of employment with the U.S. Postal Service in Cove and La Grande.

Friday, Lewis retired from 46 years of working for Union Pacific Railroad.

The two events were duly noted with fanfare, cake cutting and gatherings of friends for the usual well-wishing and goodbyes.

The month began with the celebration of their 35th wedding anniversary on June 1. Now, they're driving to Texas, taking one of their daughters and meeting the other one there.

Perhaps the most fuss of all their doings this month was the retirement of Lewis from the railroad. After all, 46 years on the same railroad deserves some recognition, friends said.

Well-wishers from Huntington to

La Grande, on the route he has taken the last five years as an engineer, made it a special day for him.

"On my final run Friday, everywhere along the way, they made it a special day. It was a great way to end a career. I've had an opportunity to work with a great bunch of people, and they all helped make the final trip a great one," he said.

He was surprised when he pulled into the

La Grande depot about 6:30 p.m. Friday and friends and family greeted him.

"My sister and brother-in-law from California, my nephew and niece from Vancouver (Wash.), and two daughters from Texas, and friends from

La Grande showed up."

After greeting him at the end of his last run, and letting great nephews Kalil and Shadan Leggett and grand-daughter Shala Jones climb aboard the engine, everybody headed for the Olde Meeting House on M Street for a dinner topped off with a cake.

They started driving back to Texas Tuesday, taking daughter Amy Jones and Shala with their camp trailer. They are headed for Killeen, Texas, near Fort Hood, where Amy's husband, Theadore Jones, is stationed with the 1st Calvary.

Then its on farther south to meet up with their other daughter, Cherryll, in Austin. She made the trip up to celebrate her dad's retirement, but flew back Sunday.

Lewis, 64, made his first run as a fireman with Union Pacific on July 1, 1957. He has worked on trains between Hinkle and Huntington most of the time, being promoted to engineer on July 12, 1968. For a while, he ran between La Grande and Nampa.

He worked in Texas in 1998 and for a little while in Spokane.

"Everywhere I've worked there have been a great bunch of people. I've enjoyed it; I can't complain a bit," he said.

Ruth Ann, 60, worked out of the Cove Post Office for almost 12 years, delivering the mail on Route 2 the last five.

She has worked Cove's Route 1 and Route 7 out of La Grande recently. The Battys have lived in Cove, Summerville and La Grande.

They don't plan to let any moss grow under their feet.

"We're going to enjoy ourselves," Lewis said. "We're going to have a good trip to Texas, and then after that, we're going to decide every morning what to do.

"One thing is certain, we're not going to become couch potatoes; that's the easiest way in the world to kill yourself," he said.

They'll go fishing at Morgan Lake or Wolf Creek, or with a friend in Portland who has a good-sized boat. or in some other local waters. He likes to hunt, too. There's always plenty of yard work to do, they said.