Thanks for Quitting. Heres Your Gold Watch.

When Fred Tryon retired, Arizona Public Service Company gave him a gold watch. Then the multibillion-dollar utility claimed he hadn't retired, but quit, and took away his pension and his benefits. Then Fred Tryon died of a heart attack. Now, his wife o

Soon after the Tryons moved to Kachina Village, a fire destroyed one of the six homes in the new subdivision they had moved into. Fred quickly put together a rudimentary fire protection service and was named fire chief on August 3, 1972.

Before long, Fred had scrounged a couple of pickup trucks and a 25-year-old open-cab fire truck from Los Angeles County. The fire department was up and running.

"He hooked and finagled every piece of equipment we had, just from people he knew in the business," says Peter Smith, now chairman of the board of the Kachina Village Volunteer Fire Department.

With virtually no money, Fred led volunteers in constructing Kachina Village's first fire station; he also organized the Kachina Village Fire District.

"He was gifted at being a team leader and an organizer of volunteers," Smith says.

The family moved from Flagstaff in 1977; Doris' medical problems required her to live at a lower altitude. The Tryons lived in Prescott and Glendale. Then, in 1982, Fred landed another fire chief job, this time at the Avra Valley Fire District north of Tucson.

Fred's work as fire chief drew widespread praise, but the modernization program he initiated also created some political friction. Fred was forced out after three years.

By this time, though, Fred had problems that dwarfed the concerns of small-town politics.

His wife was dying.

In 1974, Doris Tryon had a routine hernia operation at Flagstaff Medical Center. The operation didn't go well. Doris had to go back into the hospital for three weeks; over that time, she received several blood transfusions.

By the late 1970s, doctors began detecting a sharp decline in her red-blood-cell count and a corresponding increase in white blood cells. In 1980, Doris was sick with flulike symptoms; doctors began a series of tests. One day, the doctor called and told Doris and Fred to come to the office--together.

"The doctor said, 'You have leukemia. We don't know what kind, and we don't know how long you have to live,'" Doris says while working on her needlepoint project.

She began chemotherapy treatments within a week.
"From that day forward, I took at least six months of chemo treatments every year," Doris says.

The leukemia was later diagnosed as a type that normally afflicts elderly men. Although she has no proof, Doris believes she contracted the disease when given the blood transfusions in Flagstaff.

Throughout the 1980s, Doris continued with chemotherapy treatments. The chemicals used can gradually deteriorate nerves and organs. In 1987, she suffered a heart attack.

"There I was on the couch, and I was literally dead," she says.
Paramedics revived Doris on the way to the hospital. A short time later, she suffered a stroke that left her face partially paralyzed. She has since recovered from the paralysis.

In 1990, Doris' disease progressed. She now suffered from leukemia meningitis--a rare complication of leukemia that caused swelling in Doris' brain and sent her to the hospital once again, this time suffering from excruciating headaches. Now the chemotherapy was applied by spinal taps; that is, doctors would remove three ounces of her spinal fluid and insert three ounces of chemicals.

"My back became so scarred from so many treatments that it was hard to put the needle in," Doris says.

The early 1990s were difficult for Fred, not only because of his wife's illness, but also because of his work situation. His first four years as a security guard at Palo Verde had been relatively calm. In 1990, however, the year his wife contracted meningitis, Fred's work unit began organizing a union.

APS has a long history of fighting unions. The utility was not about to roll over when about 150 security guards made moves to join the United Plant Guard Workers of America. The workers voted in the union in 1991, and it was certified by the National Labor Relations Board the same year.

APS wasted no time in responding. The company cut pay for all security guards by 18percent, even as other workers at the power plant were receiving pay increases.

Although Fred had an excellent record tothat point, including several letters of commendation from his superiors, in 1991 hereceived a reduced job rating. The company stated the "decrease in overall job rating is the result of a change in management philosophy and should not be considered asan indication of decreased job performance."

To the union, the change in philosophy was quite clear.
"It was borderline bad-faith bargaining all the way," co-worker and union steward Mike Robbins says.

During the struggle, the union filed 14 unfair-labor-practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board. The charges have all been settled or dropped in the past few years, and relations between the union and the company seem to be improving.

"It's just been really a tough row to hoe," Robbins says. "In the past year or so, it has calmed down a bit."

But it was a row Fred Tryon was weary of hoeing. While Fred was not a vocal leader in organizing the union, working conditions at the plant became increasingly stressful as the company pressured the guards not to join the union.

Early in 1993, Fred contacted the personnel department to discuss retirement. He had seven years with the company and had just turned 62.

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