When Bob Tollison, a
Tri-City chiropractor, wants a workout, he doesn’t head to the gym.
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.
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.
treatments did not help and he only found relief after visiting a chiropractor,
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.
practiced in the Tri-Cities for 30 years and has seen thousands of patients.
maintains a small office off Clearwater Avenue, with his wife working as office
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.
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
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,”
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