He took a job with VDOT as a "skilled laborer" in 1936, tending to 27 mules, responsible for much of the heavy lifting and leveling of road projects before World War II. On Castlebury's watch, the mules helped build Harrowgate and Centralia roads in Chesterfield County. He worked 10 hours a day, seven days a week. He earned 35 cents an hour.
At a time when "you couldn't buy a job," he says he was plenty thankful to have his. He quit school after fourth grade. But he's a scholar when it comes to men and machines. He's operated and worked on just about every piece of equipment used to build, operate and maintain the state's highway system including rollers, trucks and ferry boats.
With people, Castlebury has crossed some lines. Like when he broke the rules and bought a Mother's Day card at the request of a prisoner working with a roadside chain gang. Or when he pleaded with supervisors to allow "gun-gangs" to eat their lunches in the shade rather than the baking sun.
Castlebury served in the U.S. Army Air Force for nearly four years. His early experience with VDOT landed him a post as a driver for officers and nurses at a base in Hartford, Conn. When he was dispatched overseas he refused to fly, he says, because he "picked up too many pilots," dead or bleeding.
On an autumn morning, the inveterate worker appears content to be home, happy to be reminiscing. He and his wife, Anna, moved into their Chester house in 1947. Like Castlebury, it is modest and impeccably neat.
The couple spent more than a half-century together. She died in 2001. Castlebury had taken hiatus from his job with VDOT to care for her. They met on a blind date, Oct. 12, 1942. She was from Massachusetts. He marveled, he says, that she moved 500 miles to be with him. Nine months after they married Castlebury went to war and spent 22 months abroad. Byways brought him back. He arrived two days early. "I walked a mile in the rain to call her," he says of waiting Anna. She was surprised, though not as much as Castlebury. He remembers plainly: She asked, "You're home already?" Brandon Walters
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