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June 17, 2015
William Burns “Bill” Dickson worked at his family's construction business up until a week before his death on June 12 at the age of 95.
Richard Dickson said his dad started at the family construction business, then called Lige Dickson Co., as a bulldozer operator in the 1940s and became president in 1971 of what is now Dickson Co. Bill helped expand the business from an earthmoving and utility contractor by adding demolition services and a gravel pit.
Richard said his father was a good problem solver. “He was cool under fire ... and ... in construction, there are a lot crises,” Richard said.
About three years ago Bill stepped down from a leadership role at the company but still wanted to come to work. The new job? Conducting daily visible inspections for oil sheens on three ponds at the company's gravel pit.
Over his career, Bill helped manage much larger and more complex projects, such as building five miles of Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass, three five-mile segments of Interstate 5, about half of state Route 512, and demolishing a nuclear reactor building at Hanford.
Richard said the $35 million Hanford project was the company's largest demolition job. It involved removing three-quarters of the building that housed the reactor core and supervising a subcontractor that built a roof and walls around the remaining core. Work started in 2008 and continued into 2012.
Dickson Co. also demolished about 500 buildings over three years in the 1990s at Fort Lewis.
Earlier this year, the company tore down the 67,000-square-foot building in Montlake that housed the Museum of History & Industry for 60 years.
In his 20s, Bill attended the University of Puget Sound for two years, trading bulldozing work on the campus for tuition.
He later became active in the construction community, serving in 1964 as president of the Tacoma Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of Washington, as a trustee for about 20 years for the Operating Engineers Health and Pension Trust, and as a regular at AGC Southern District dinners.
Richard said his father treated everyone with a high level of respect, from the president of a company to the laborer in the field. “He never said a bad word about anybody,” Richard said.
Longtime Dickson employee Randy Asahara wrote: “Mr. Dickson was always a gentleman, he was generous with his time, and was the kindest man I have ever met. He always had time to speak with you, and he always had a good story and joke to tell. His accomplishments in our construction industry, as well as in the community and especially with his family, are an inspiration to all of us.”
Richard said a guest speaker didn't show up at an AGC meeting years ago, and that's when Bill stepped in with jokes described by one industry source as “legendary.” AGC members liked the show and Bill ended up entertaining them pretty much every month.
Outside of construction, Bill was highly involved with the Mormon church, where he served as bishop for five years and was on the high council for 23 years. He even helped manage a remodel of the local church.
Richard said he developed a good work ethic from his father, who used to wake him and his four siblings at 8 a.m. on Saturdays to do chores around the house. Bill also took his kids with him while doing volunteer work.
Richard said his dad would often help someone that needed money. “He showed by example what really counts in life,” Richard said.
Funeral services will be held 11 a.m. Monday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Tacoma at South 12th and Pearl streets.
Benjamin Minnick can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.