For 40 years, Terry “The Governor” Bohne was a fixture at the Salina highway department.
After he passed away April 12, he was honored in a way no one had been before.
“The family had asked if we could do something [for the funeral],” said Joel Lamb, a supervisor in the department. “So we had the snowplow and the service truck in the procession. We had the trucks lined up out in front of the garage with the lights flashing. The family was so into that.”
“It was really overwhelming for us,” said Bohne’s daughter Rita Bush. “It was very emotional.”
“They never did that for anyone before,” said Dolores Bohne, Terry’s widow. “He got a better sendoff than the real governor.”
Terry Bohne succumbed to a heart ailment on April 12, the very day his retirement from the town was effective. He is survived by Dolores, his wife of some 40 years; two sons, Michael (Shawn) DiMura and Terry (Virginia) Bohne Jr.; daughter Rita (Jamie) Bush; mother Rita Bohne; four brothers, John, Ray, Dennis and Michael Bohne; sister Mary Smith; 14 grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.
Ever the dedicated employee, Terry, even in death, wanted to honor his position with the town.
“He asked to be buried in one of those ugly yellow highway department shirts we wear,” Lamb said.
It was that devotion to his job that earned Bohne the nickname “The Governor.”
“Everybody there has a nickname,” said son-in-law Jamie Bush, who also works for the highway department. “Someone else had been The Governor, but when he retired, everyone decided Terry should take the title.”
According to Lamb, at the end of shift every day, everyone would gather around Bohne and he would “hold court.” The other employees would listen to him as if he were their supervisor, Bush added.
“It had a lot to do with the way everybody treated each other,” he said. “The guys all had so much respect for him.”
That respect was well-earned. Bohne started with the highway department in 1968, before the town had a parks department. In addition to maintaining the town’s roads and public facilities, highway department employees were also responsible for mowing park lawns and maintaining those facilities. Lamb said he had known Bohne since those days.
“I was a kid — maybe 10 or 12,” Lamb said. “I knew him when he was just starting. The whole 27 years I’ve been [with the department], I worked with him.”
Lamb said Bohne was the most dedicated employee he’d ever seen.
“Some people, they become executives, lawyers, they work on Wall Street,” he said. “This was like that for Terry. This was his career. He took pride in it. He lived for the town of Salina.”
Heart transplant recipient
But living that life wasn’t always easy. Bohne developed heart problems in the late 1980s, including an enlarged heart that eventually necessitated a heart transplant.
“It got to the point where that was the only option,” Jamie Bush said.
It was September of 1990 when the Bohnes got the call that there was a heart ready for Terry.
“He came home from work that day and he was so tired,” Dolores Bohne recalled. “He laid down after supper. He was sleeping when the call came.”
Rita Bush was the one who answered the phone.
“I remember it so clearly,” she said. “I went into his room and said, ‘Dad, you’ve got a heart, you’ve got a heart.’ But he didn’t believe it.”
On Sept. 20, 1990, Terry Bohne got his new heart. And while he would have been completely justified in quitting his job or taking early retirement, he had no such intentions.
“After the transplant, he could have stayed home and collected disability,” Jamie Bush said. “No one would have blamed him for that. But he figured if he could do work around his house and mow his lawn and everything, he could work.”
Bohne returned to the highway department within a year of the transplant. He stayed on for another 18 years, until his health began to deteriorate this past winter. Even then, he was determined to tough it out.
“This past winter, he was so sick that we had to help him into the snowplow,” Lamb said. “But he still came in every day. He still did his job every day.”
By the spring, however, it was clear even to Terry that he had to call it quits. Thanks to his friendships in the department, his retirement was pushed through quickly. On April 12, as if he couldn’t live without the job, he passed away.
Despite his health problems, Bohne’s death came as a shock to those who knew and loved him.
“A lot of people thought he’d be fine,” Dolores Bohne said. “They expected him to pull through. But he’d suffered enough. He’s not suffering anymore.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.