Industry Mourns Passing Of ‘Pops’

By Kit Jones, Wheelwright | January 2012, Vol. 67 No. 1

Over the last week, I’ve had the pleasure of talking to some of Lester Luttrell’s close friends, family -- even a competitor or two. I received an ear-full of stories. Most of them were hilarious, some of them were serious, but all of them ended with something like: “that Lester, he was one hell of a man.”

Lester Ray Luttrell, Jr., operations manager for IPR/PM Construction, passed away on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011, from cancer of the liver.

Humble beginnings defined his life and shaped others -- Those closest to him said he was self-made, and simply worked harder and smarter than most.

“His first business failed, actually, but that only made him more determined to succeed,” said Paul Luttrell, Lester’s son. “All he had was a couple of bulldozers and a low-boy to move them from one excavating job to the next. However, after about five years, his business had failed. Then at 32 years-old, Pops (a name most people called him), started to turn his life around. He went to work for “Shorty Chapman” as a heavy equipment operator and supervisor building highways during the warmer part of the year, and sold insurance during the winter months. I think it was a mix of talent that really defined and made him what he was. Pops was truly ‘the salt and the light,’ and people seemed to never get enough of him.”

He was the king of sewers -- Professionally, that’s what a lot of folks said about this giant in the trenchless construction industry. After spending eight years working for Shorty Chapman, Lester struck out on his own again, and began building a small sewer rehabilitation company that worked in multiple states from Michigan to Florida and from Virginia to Oklahoma.

Lester quickly recognized there was a tremendous opportunity in sewer rehab and expanded his services from TV and inspection services to slip lining, and then pipe bursting. “He had vision,” said Philip McAffee, former owner of PM Construction, “and a real nose for business. He really cared about his work, so he always made sure he had the best qualified sub-contractors to make sure the job was done right.”

If there was a problem on the job, Lester was the “go to” guy -- Lester was at his best when he was in the field. He was a problem solver and used simple common sense to resolve any problems that came up. “Lester never panicked and also figured a way to solve problems that occurred on-site, reflected Matt McAffee, Philip’s son. “In Jacksonville, where he had a large sewer maintenance contract, he was the man. If a city engineer or inspector had a question, Lester would be the one to resolve it.”