MATTOON — Jim Ashworth drove a semi truck for 69 years, and it was all he had ever known as a steady job, until his retirement.

The 86-year-old Mattoon native said that since he was a little boy all he could remember was being interested in trucks and getting his chauffeur license at the age of 16 was the gateway to his career as a semitruck driver.

Once Jim received his chauffeur license, he drove a semitruck in the Army at the age of 18, and by the age of 19, he owned his first semitruck once he was out of the Army.

Having his very own semitruck opened up a variety of different driving jobs for Jim, who retired in January from driving a semitruck at Rural King in Mattoon.

“Driving a truck was a way to make a living, but it was also something I enjoyed very much,” Jim said.

Since he first started driving a truck and until his retirement, Jim said the industry changed drastically.

“When I first started out, I had a two-ton tracker and a 22-foot trailer, and I drove from Mattoon to Chicago,” Jim said. “Driving a truck now has changed for the better.”

Jim said when he first received a job driving a semitruck he was earning $2.50 an hour.

Retiring was something Jim said he didn’t want to do but was forced to do due to health related issues, like losing sight in his left eye and trouble breathing.

“I would have liked to drive a semitruck my whole life because it has been in my blood for as long as I can remember,” Jim said.

The original plan for Jim was to retire at the age of 65, but he said that Rural King needed his help so what was only supposed to be a short time out from his retirement turned into 20 more years of driving.

“I had already retired at 65, but the manager of Rural King asked me to stay longer and then I ended up staying for 20 years,” Jim said with a laugh.

Before his retirement Jim said he had drove a little over 4 million miles in his semitruck over his 69 years of work.

Jim was the first person in his family to become a truck driver, with his only son Ron following in his footsteps.

Just like his father, Ron started driving a semitruck in the Army when he was in his early 20’s.

Ron, 63, said seeing all his father’s hard work and determination made him want to become a semitruck driver as well.

“Driving a truck is all I have ever know,” Ron said.

Once Ron got out of the Army he was a diesel mechanic and then started driving semitrucks for the same Rural King his father once worked at.

“It wasn’t until I got out of the service that I knew I wanted to be a semitruck driver,” Ron said.

For 42 years Ron has been driving semitrucks and he said he hopes to continue to do so for as long as he can.

“One day I hope to retire and travel with my wife, but for right now you work as long as you have to,” Ron said.

Contact Bilharz at sbilharz@jg-tc.com or 217-238-6839.

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