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Thousands of miles can’t stand between L-1073 Boilermaker and his dream to attend ISO Conference

Gary Parrish, a steward from L-1073, and his wife Christine get set for their four-day drive to Vegas.

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Union steward and wife take the road trip of a lifetime

It’s a 2,076-mile drive, give or take, from Cleveland to Las Vegas. That’s 2,076 miles through eight to ten states, depending on how you route it — or 31 hours, driven over four days. Not counting rest breaks. Now, multiply all of that by two to account for the return trip home.

Gary Parrish, a 24-year Boilermaker who is a steward at Local 1073 (Cleveland), can tell you all about that drive. He and his wife, Christine, made the road trip this past summer to attend the 2018 Industrial Sector Operations Conference in Vegas.

“I’ve been a union man all my life, and the guys would come back from [the ISO Conference] talking about everything they had learned,” Gary says. “I’ve been getting more involved in the union over the past 10 years. I’ve always wanted to go and find out what [ISO] is all about, and I’ve always wanted to go to Vegas.”

But every year, there was the same problem: Gary does not like to fly, and his local provided transportation to the conference via plane ticket. It didn’t seem like he’d ever get to go — until this year, when his union brothers figured out a way.

“We agreed that we could give Gary the same amount it cost for a plane ticket; and as long as he could make it work driving, he could do it,” says L-1073 President Richard Goings, who along with L-1073 Secretary/Treasurer Jim Tokarski, attended the 2018 ISO with Gary.

That’s how it came to be that Gary and Christine set out for their dream-come-true drive.

Gary says they made the most of the drive, watching the scenery unfold from the corn and soybean fields of Ohio through Nebraska, to cattle grazing in Colorado, kitschy Route 66, desert, more desert and then the bright lights of Vegas.

With only one hiccup along the way: Just outside Vegas, a rock popped up and cracked the windshield of their rental car (big shout-out to Hertz, Gary says, who kept them moving along and didn’t charge to swap their vehicle).

And then, there they were, in the Crystal City.

“I was expecting a little city in the desert,” he notes. “But what we found was a really big city in a really big desert! I had no idea it would be that big.”

The ISO conference, he said, was worth the four-day journey.

“I was amazed how organized and well planned it was,” he says, noting his two favorite classes covered the topics “workplace violence” and “social media.” “It was a great experience. The classes were great, and people paid attention and asked questions.”

Among the highlights for Gary were hearing keynote speaker and award-winning author Dan Clark, and listening to International President Newton B. Jones’ speech.

“(Dan Clark) brought tears to my eyes, because he talked about losing his mother, and I’d just lost my mother. I got to shake his hand and thank him,” he says. “And to hear International President Newton B. Jones’ rolling, deep voice; he was inspiring.”

And after business sessions and classes, Gary and Christine explored the Vegas area, visiting the Grand Canyon, Lake Meade, Hoover Dam, famed Freemont Street and resort landmarks, like New York, New York. They even renewed their wedding vows after 38 years, officiated by “Elvis” at the Graceland Wedding Chapel — the same place Jon Bon Jovi married his high school sweetheart, Dorothea Hurley, in 1989.

“There was a lot to see in Vegas and at the conference,” Gary says, adding that he is already implementing things he learned at ISO. “If I have the chance, I’d go back.”

His advice to other Boilermakers considering attending a conference: “Start getting involved. Anybody can pay union dues, but if you want to be part of a union you’ve got to get involved.”

Registration is NOW open for the 2019 ISO Conference, July 8-11 at the Mirage Hotel & Casino! Don’t wait. Visit www.boilermakers.org/ISO2019