ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. - With his feet propped on the ottoman in front of his favorite chair, obviously relaxed in the sunken den of his home, Sgt. Maj. Lee Hayslette looks like any retired 70-something.

A few feet away is the telephone - close enough for Hayslette to grab because each time it rings the caller may be telling him about his next job.

Hayslette spent more than 50 years serving the federal government in one capacity or another and, even in retirement, he is anxious to work for them again.

"I may be going back to work soon," said the two-time retiree.

Hayslette retired from the U.S. Army Dec. 31, 1979, after 28-and-a-half years of service. Six months later, he was back at work in the same location, Anniston Army Depot, this time as a security guard.

Being a security guard, however, didn't last long. A run-in with one of the installation's non-human occupants ensured that.

"One night - it was really, really cold and a full moon - I was out in my truck in the restricted area when I looked in my rearview mirror and saw the head of a big bull buffalo," said Hayslette. "He had his head pressed right up against the back window."

The sight, coming suddenly when he was in a secluded area of the installation, convinced him he wasn't meant to be a guard. So, Hayslette became the reserve component coordinator for the depot for one year, then went to work at one of his former posts, Fort McClellan.

The chemical school located on the Army base needed a civilian to work with their training device documents, and Hayslette soon found himself working with an old friend.

"He could figure anything out," said Gary Harvey, former executive officer for Anniston Army Depot and longtime friend of Hayslette who became one of his co-workers at Fort McClellan. "You could hire him for any job and in six months he would be an expert at it."

He changed jobs about a decade later when EAI, a contractor for the chemical school, hired him. In 1999, when the fort closed, the chemical school changed hands to the Department of Justice and became the Center for Domestic Preparedness. Hayslette's job changed with it and he was the logistics manager for EAI until he retired again in 2008.

Hayslette's hair, still styled as he wore it while in uniform, has grayed, but his smile and wit haven't dimmed.

"People called him the funny sarg because he was always carrying on, but the man is flat out sharp," said Harvey. "He really has a brain."

Hayslette, a born practical joker, tells of his days at the depot with a smile on his face. He reminisces about the sergeant major's office being located across from the elevator and the fact he knew the phone number to it.

"One day, the commander got on and I called the number. I asked, 'Is this the PX'" he said, lowering his voice into an imitation of the tone he used for the prank.

Through his sense of humor, Hayslette handled the stress of long careers and it is one way he shows his enjoyment of life.

"I figure, you only come this way once. You might as well enjoy it," said Hayslette.

But, Harvey said, his friend the jokester was also a reliable worker.

"He is the best right arm I ever met," said Harvey. "He instinctively knew what to do. I could always depend on him."

Hayslette's work ethic sprang from his roots in a West Virginia mining town where he was once offered a job in the coal mines.

He was offered a scholarship by a coal mining company in exchange for working in the mines. He would work for three months and then could attend college for three months.

"The first day I went down in this cage, that's what they called it. I said, 'No, I'm not going to do this. Take me back up,'" said Hayslette.

He joined the Army shortly thereafter, at the urging of a friend.

During his military career, Hayslette spent 15 years in Korea. His time there gave him someone special - the woman he was married to for 52 years.

"We married each other four times," said Hayslette, adding they were married in three different locations at different times. The fourth occasion came two years ago, in May 2008, when the couple renewed their vows surrounded by a lifetime of friends and family.

Kim passed away in July 2010. A few months later, Hayslette fulfilled a promise to her and purchased the home where he now lives with his oldest daughter, son-in-law, an adult granddaughter and one great-granddaughter.

He now spends his days working on the computer, talking on the phone with those who want him for consulting jobs and spending time with his family.

Page last updated Thu April 28th, 2011 at 12:24