GRAND RIVERS, KY (May 30, 2017) – The US Highway 62 Bridge across the Tennessee River below Kentucky Dam has been re-named in memory and in honor of former U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kentucky Lock resident engineer George A. (Tony) Ellis Tuesday.
A brief ceremony recognizing the naming of the bridge was held at the Grand Rivers Senior Citizens Community Center. In addition to the bridge ceremony, Lt. Col. Stephen Murphy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District commander, presented his family with a posthumous Superior Civilian Service Award. A new sign bearing Elli’s name was unveiled by the family.
Ellis, 53, was the resident engineer for one of the Nashville District’s largest and longest projects, the Kentucky Lock Addition Project, when he tragically passed away unexpectedly July 27, 2016 from natural causes. His death was a shocking loss to the Corps of Engineers, the district, the resident and project office teams, and many friends, family, colleagues, and contractors who knew and served with him.
He served on the Kentucky Lock Addition project since 2000. His leadership and expertise were instrumental in the project’s success to build this bridge over a period of more than nine years.
Don Getty, project manager, worked closely with Ellis said Ellis’ legacy with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District will live on well into the future because of his leadership and involvement on the $1.25 billion project to construct bridges and a new lock at Kentucky Dam in Grand Rivers, Ky. When completed, the new lock will double the size of the current lock and significantly improve the efficiency and flow of the tens of millions of tons of barge traffic that transit it every year.
Getty presented a slide show of photos of Ellis’ work on projects and said his incredible work ethic, character, and commitment to excellence have left a lasting mark on the Nashville District and a legacy that all his colleagues will never forget.
Recalling an example of Ellis’ determination and demonstrated leadership, Getty said he remembered when Ellis returned to the office on a Friday afternoon after a root canal to work on a $1.1 million contract modification. He coordinated with the legal and contracting offices to have it reviewed over the weekend in time for a Monday deadline.
“Who comes back to work on a Friday afternoon between Christmas and New Years after a root canal? Tony Ellis of course,” Getty said. “A project of this nature with large construction contracts has many facets and complexities that require constant interaction with multiple parties that all have deadlines. I never knew Tony to miss a deadline.”
Getty said Ellis leaves two major legacies at Kentucky Lock. The first, the concrete and steel that has his blood, sweat and tears all over it, is easy to see, he said.
“The second legacy is harder to see, but it is the team that Tony left behind,” Getty stressed. “His construction team is an experienced well-oiled machine that I know will continue his legacy of overcoming impossible hurdles to get the job done. He truly loved them like his family and made them feel that they all had a stake in the game.”
A civil engineer, Ellis was responsible for $300 million of construction during his tenure as resident engineer over the past 11 years. His heart and soul went into building the new Highway 62 and railroad bridges near the dam, the first of several significant projects required to be completed so that the actual construction of the lock could begin. He then spearheaded the initial construction of the new lock that will reduce long waiting times for barges locking through the dam and moving commerce throughout the region.
“Tony’s personal impact on the project and the people involved with it is immeasurable. I have received calls from all over the country, from contractors and Corps employees alike, expressing their sadness at Tony’s passing. Our thoughts and prayers, and many tears, are going out to his wife Debbie and their children Anna, Allison and Avery,” Murphy said.
Murphy said Ellis was the face of the project and his team, demonstrated by his filming of an “On The Road Again” video segment about the project during a visit in June by Lt. Gen. Todd J. Semonite, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers chief of engineers.
“I will miss Tony’s leadership, professional competence, and common sense approach to problems,” Murphy said. “He led by example and the incredible outpouring of love we’ve seen at his passing attests to that. The success of the project and the dedication of his team are a direct reflection of the great man that Tony was. The district is just so thankful to have had the opportunity to have known and loved a man like him.”
(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)