Henry Kurkowski has earned his respect
Respect does not come easily in the trenches of Long Island. But for Henry Kurkowski, there is respect and then some. Henry, 68, is a 50-year employee with National Grid and its predecessor companies. It’s safe to say that he has left his imprint with coworkers, customers and neighborhoods across Long Island.
Henry, currently an A Foreman, recently celebrated his career milestone in the Roslyn Yard’s Ready Room with his coworkers, union representatives, leadership and his retiree buddies. Stories about his work ethic, meticulousness, leadership and interest in all things abounded over coffee and breakfast.
“You can send people to Melville for training,” says Brian Dwyer, Contract Oversight, Greenlawn. “But you don’t get your Master’s degree until you spend time with Henry.”
Henry, Long Island born and bred, has a legacy of hard work that runs through his veins. He credits this to his parents – Clifford and Margaret – both of whom worked for Grumman.
“My father was in a wheelchair after World War II and yet he always went to work with a smile on his face,” says Henry. “It’s in my heritage to work and work hard. Both my parents instilled that in me from an early age.”
That mindset shows in his attendance over the years. In 50 years, Henry has called in sick only three times. At one point, he went 36 years straight years without missing a work day.
Photo: Celebrating with Henry (l to r): Bob Hughes, Senior Supervisor; Ken Daly, New York President; Brian Varga, Director, Field Operations; and Jim Brown, Local 1049 Business Manager.
A jack of all trades; a fascinating character
Henry considers himself a jack of all trades and his jobs over the years reflect that. He started out as a streetman in July 1966, became a utility mechanic and then a welder. He’s held his current job title since 1995.
For Dave Spy, a fellow foreman in Roslyn for 33 years, Henry’s customer-centric approach stands out. “When we get to a neighborhood we’re working in, Henry goes beyond what’s expected,” he says. “He walks through the neighborhood to meet the residents and business owners face-to-face. He makes putting pipe in the ground personal.”
“We don’t talk to the public enough,” says Henry. “I want to make sure I tell them what we’re doing, that we’ll be making a mess, but we’re going to clean it up. I make sure my crews have respect for a customer’s home or business as if it were their own.”
But more than just being great at his job, Henry finds joy in life and in learning. And he has a passion for sharing his knowledge – from the intricacies of his job to the types of rocks that are dug up, to the birds that are local to the area. Some might consider him a throwback to another era.
When asked what he’d like to impart to young people starting out in the field, Henry says: “Expertise, quality control and pride in workmanship. Take care of these things and you’ll have a long, successful career like I’ve had.”
“Even after working here 50 years the gas business still fascinates Henry,” says Margaret Dugan, Manager, Gas Field Ops. “Every single day he has joy about doing his job and living his life.
“I am the way I am,” says Henry. And for National Grid, his coworkers and the customers he’s served, being who he is has earned Henry Kurkowski much respect over 50 years.