Bryan Needham retires after nearly four decades at Fermilab

Bryan Needham

On Feb. 12, 1981, Fermilab fireman Bryan Needham had his first day of work at Fermilab. It was the start of a 38-year career in which he would not only serve as a fire fighter, but also work with magnets, the Bubble Chamber and snow plows. Now he is retiring. His last day is Aug. 29.

Although most of the people who know Needham know him as a member of the Fermilab Fire Department, his lab career didn’t start that way. He began as a cryostat technician making spool boxes for what would be the Tevatron. He continued to build spool boxes at the Bubble Chamber, assisting and teaching one of the groups how to repair the particle detector. Then his work went magnetic: He repaired magnets and built particle targets, later graduating to building dipole magnets. He also rehabilitated Tevatron magnets, either repairing them directly or running the debonding oven to reuse the components.

After the magnet phase of his career, Needham moved to the Roads and Grounds Department.

“It was like moving back to the farm I grew up on,” he said.

He operated tractors, trucks, loaders, mowers and even plowed snow.

In his 11th year, he moved to the Fire Department, where he currently works.

“When I’m asked about my work, I would say ‘I work at the country club,’ because the lab has a country club atmosphere,” Needham said, recalling that in the early days, some group was always putting on a party. “I always enjoyed the volleyball and softball teams played for, which of course led to a night at the Users Center.”

Others regard Needham fondly.

“Bryan has worked at Fermilab for 38 years, 27 years at the Fire Department, starting out as a firefighter and working his way up to the rank of lieutenant,” said Fermilab Fire Chief Chuck Kuhn. “He has served on various committees and always had the best interest of everyone at the lab. Bryan was the person other department members would call if in need of assistance with shift coverage or assistance throughout his tenure at the Fire Department. We wish Bryan and his family the best of luck in his retirement.”

During retirement, Needham will spend time with his grandchildren, travel with his wife, ride his Harley, hunt and take up fishing.

“The Fermilab family was always great to be with,” Needham said. “I have met many people here, some that have led to good friends and family frienships. To this day, I still see those people on and off site, and we talk and joke of the great times we have had here.”

All are welcome to attend a retirement reception for Needham on Monday, Aug. 26, from 1-3 p.m. at the Fermilab fire station.