Chiropractor moving to metal manipulation

Practitioner to retire, return to first career as welder

When Bob Tollison, a Tri-City chiropractor, wants a workout, he doesn’t head to the gym. 

Instead, his preferred fitness routine is a visit to the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union 598 in Pasco, where he dons his gear and perfects his welding skills.

The skills needed to make an acceptable weld require flexibility, strength, concentration and hand-eye coordination and beat pumping iron, Tollison said.

Welding is not just an after-work activity for the 65-year-old Tollison.

When he retires from his practice after his next birthday later this year, welding will become his encore career. Or rather, a return to his first career.

Tollison attended Columbia Basin College’s welding program in 1972 and his skills as a N stamp (that’s “n” for nuclear) welder were in demand to build key local projects, including the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Plant, known as PUREX, and the Columbia Generating Station.

He also plied his welding torch throughout the Northwest and Alaska, working on pipeline projects and pulp and paper mills during the construction boom in the 1970s.

However, the big projects ended with the arrival of the 1980s, he said.

That’s when Tollison began to consider alternate career paths.

He became interested in chiropractic care as result of debilitating back spasms he experienced because of the long hours he logged as a welder.

Standard medical treatments did not help and he only found relief after visiting a chiropractor, he said.

In 1982, Tollison, accompanied by his wife and two young children, packed up and moved to Davenport, Iowa, to attend the Palmer College of Chiropractic.

After graduating in 1986, he moved to Arizona to begin an internship and start his practice. But after a couple of years and wanting to be closer to family, the family moved back to Tri-Cities.

Tollison has practiced in the Tri-Cities for 30 years and has seen thousands of patients.

He currently maintains a small office off Clearwater Avenue, with his wife working as office manager. 

He works a reduced work week, seeing patients on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

He’s looking forward to hanging up his white coat in August when he turns 66. He said the business side of running a practice has changed significantly in the last few years and thinks this is a good time to close his office.

Tollison’s many interests include hiking, biking, kayaking, preaching and using his FCC amateur radio license. So why welding for his retirement?

“I have vacationed across North America and Europe, so I don’t need to travel as part of my retirement,” he said. “My family and my children are in the Tri-Cities. My wife’s mother has dementia issues and needs our care. I don’t plan on welding full time but instead I could consider it a high-paying vacation from my retirement,” he said.

Like many who aspire to an encore career, Tollison’s plan was years in the making. For the past 10 years, Tollison has been spending time in the union hall welding booths to hone his skills.

The muscle memory of using his torch to weave a stream of molten steel to fuse two sections of pipe together has returned. Recently he passed a union test for welding carbon steel pipes and he is now allowed to test to work for contractors who need welders.

“The great thing about union is that it doesn’t matter how old you are. All that matters is how good you are and if can you do the job,” he said.

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