Northampton Press

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Cement worker of the month

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 by Ed Pany Curator, Atlas Cement Company Memorial Museum in Columns

Roark Grammes

Mr. Roark Grammes was born in Hudson, N.Y. His father, Donald, was a chemist with Lone Star Cement. Roark moved with his family when his father was transferred to Greencastle, Ind.; Trumbull, Conn.; Roanoke, Va.; Shawnee, Kan., where he graduated from Shawnee Mission High School in 1980; and finally to Allentown in 1981.

After graduating from Lehigh County Community College, he followed in his father’s footsteps and was hired as a lab technician at Lone Star in Nazareth, the landmark company that later became Essroc.

When Essroc consolidated its lab operations, Roark took his skills to Lafarge in 2012. He was assigned to the Lafarge lab to conduct both physical and chemical tests on the company’s dozen different types of cement. The lab has been transformed by the computer and X-ray technology.

He recalled, “At one time, labs operated with eight employees. Some tests took eight hours; now, some can be completed in 15 minutes. I work closely in the lab with Dan Marcks and supervisor Jim Hess, both excellent co-workers.”

The physical lab tests the strength, expansion and setting of cement. Tests are constant, and samples are analyzed every two hours on each shift. There are also chemical tests to ensure a quality product. In the past, written reports were recorded manually in a daily ledger. Today, the computer has streamlined the process.

“The laboratory is certified by the Cement and Concrete Reference Lab, which visits the plant to inspect all lab procedures. Safety is stressed. Safety glasses are used during the lab work. Also, rubber gloves are a requirement.”

Mr. Grammes has conducted thousands of tests during his 33-year laboratory career.

He said, “We have a friendly, cooperative atmosphere at the plant, and I enjoy my job. Our goal is always to produce quality cement for our many customers.”

Roark has been married to the former Michele Gonda for 27 years. He has an interesting hobby — collecting antique advertising, which adorns his home. He must enjoy the TV series “Pickers”!

Roark and Michele reside in Trexlertown.

Mr. Grammes is a dedicated cement worker, and we wish him and all my friends at the century-old Cementon plant a safe and prosperous year.