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Donald Lichliter feared being hit

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Posted: Monday, July 27, 2009 10:00 pm

Donald Lichliter told his family if he was ever killed on the job he wanted them to tell people about the risks he and other Caltrans employees faced as they worked on state roads.

"He told us if he was killed on the job he wanted us to let people know that (Caltrans workers) have families, and that (drivers) need to slow down," said his wife Mandy Lichliter, on Saturday. "People don't know how dangerous it can be."

Lichliter, 53, was applying fertilizer to trees Thursday along the south side of Highway 99 in Lodi when he was hit and killed by a truck.

The California Highway Patrol said a panel truck from Glassfab Tempering Services, of Tracy, struck Lichliter. The truck driver, Keith Fletcher, 45, of Stockton, remained on the scene and spoke with investigators. No arrests have been made and the incident is under investigation.

Lichliter was a 27-year California Department of Transportation employee and was based in the Lodi office. He and his family lived in Modesto. He was the first Caltrans employee to die on the job this year. Caltrans had one death in 2008 and three in 2007.

Lichliter took pride in his job as a tree maintenance worker. "He loved going down the road and saying, 'Look at that tree. I worked on that,'" his wife said. "He enjoyed making the highways look beautiful."

She said he had a green thumb at home, keeping his trees healthy and his lawn manicured.

But his enjoyment at work came with the fear of being hit by a car or truck because a driver was not paying attention, Mandy Lichliter said.

On Thursday, Lichliter was with another worker applying a fertilizer treatment to keep the eucalyptus trees healthy and treat a pest. Their truck was parked on the shoulder.

The CHP said it was unclear if Lichliter stepped into the road or if the truck driver veered onto the shoulder. The accident occurred south of Victor Road.

"If (drivers) see road work ahead, they need to slow down and be cautious," Mandy Lichliter said. "They need to put away all distractions."

Despite the risk, Lichliter was a devoted state employee who was called upon to work double shifts or late into the night if he was needed, his wife said.

She said he would go out of his way while at work to help stranded drivers along the highway.

"He would help them push their car off the road, change their tires or give them a ride," she said. "He would do anything for anybody."

Lichliter's family remembered him as a boisterous man who was the life of the party.

With a big smile on her face, Ally Lichliter remembered her dad singing the raucous lyrics of "Black Betty" on a karaoke machine at his birthday party.

Lichliter's family said he loved making jokes about everybody, and that he loved to push everyone's buttons almost as much as he loved it when people pushed his buttons.

He loved driving his 2000 Buell Thunderbolt motorcycle to work or taking his wife for a leisurely ride to La Grange and Coulterville. His work ethic was matched by his dedication to his family.

"He taught us a lot about how to be responsible," said his daughter, Jollene Kelley. "He always thought of others before he thought of himself."

Lichliter is survived by his wife and four children: Nicole Lewis, 30, Jollene Kelley, 28, John Lewis, 27, Ally Lichliter, 15, and his two granddaughters Gianna Lewis, 5, and 7-month-old Lera Kelley.

A funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at First Baptist Church at 12th and Needham streets in Modesto. The public is invited.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or 578-2394.

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7 comments:

  • posted at 4:22 pm on Tue, Jul 28, 2009.

    Posts:

    To the Lichliter family, I am truly sorry for your loss...my husband and sister-in-law also work for the people of this state via CalTrans. My husband had gotten to know Don in the last few years and is truly grieved by his loss. I can only imagine what all of you are going through. There never seem to be the right words....our prayers are with you.

     
  • posted at 11:10 am on Tue, Jul 28, 2009.

    Posts:

    Sincere condolences to the Lichliter family. May God help you through this horrible time.

     
  • posted at 11:01 am on Tue, Jul 28, 2009.

    Posts:

    ordinarycitizen, in your post you state that "we" had to go to Elk Grove which sounds like you had another person with you. A cell phone and the CHP might have been able to stop that dolt. The report states that his truck was parked on the shoulder, is it policy that the truck be parked on the shoulder or should the entire lane been coned off, thus preventing a possable accident. If conditions change due to this accident and the entire lane be closed, how sad it would be to loose a life in order to make a safety change.

     
  • posted at 10:00 am on Tue, Jul 28, 2009.

    Posts:

    ordinarycitizen: I agree, people can be idiots. Due to an in-a-hurry driver that was doing 100+ on I-80, my brother has been in ICU for two weeks because that sorry-excuse of a human being rear ended him at 100+ mph while he was on his Harley. He has about a year of rehab and therapy and for what?? To make it worse, the driver took off!My thoughts and prayers are with the family.

     
  • posted at 7:33 am on Tue, Jul 28, 2009.

    Posts:

    May God bless his family and be with them in their time of grief.

     
  • posted at 7:24 am on Tue, Jul 28, 2009.

    Posts:

    I am very sorry for your loss. I wish people would slow down too. Last night we had to go to Elk Grove and on the way back home this car came flying up behind me. I was in the fast lane going 70, and next to me was a truck, and this man in a car came speeding up behind me inches from my bumper flashing his lights at me to get out of the way. Where could I go with truck next to me? I had to wait to pass the truck and then change lanes. What this guy was trying to do was push me in a very aggressive manner, which could be deadly. We watched as the speeding motorist veered in and out of lanes, all the while speeding. Another car, two gals in a convertable, same thing, speeding and veering in and out of traffic. Why the need to exceed the speed? It's crazy out there and I really hope that people will stop and think about safety first, especially when there are workers and cone zones out on the roadways. Again, I am very sorry for your loss.

     
  • posted at 2:30 am on Tue, Jul 28, 2009.

    Posts:

    heartfelt sympathy goes out to the family. Mr. Lichliter was a good man as described by his wife and family.Please slow for the cone zone.

     

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