George Hudson is laid back and humble. He isn’t too proud and doesn’t boast his accomplishments.
When he finishes a day of work, he goes home, sometimes plays with his great-grandchild, goes to bed and starts all over again.
This year he broke an impressive record at Delta Star for being the first employee in the company’s history to celebrate 50 years of service with the Lynchburg-based transformer manufacturer.
Hudson, 70, started at the company back in 1969 when it was H.K. Porter when he was 20 years old as a molder. It was only his third job.
Fifty years later he continues to work at the company, now called Delta Star, as a transformer assembler level 5, the highest rank an assembler can have before becoming a supervisor.
He does it without being able to verbally communicate with his coworkers.
Hudson was born deaf and as a result, he also is unable to speak but even with his disability, he never has let his impairments slow him down.
Teaching many of his coworkers to use basic American Sign Language and writing his words down is Hudson’s way of communicating day-to-day.
Kendal Jackson, director of manufacturing at Delta Star, said Hudson has been a dedicated employee every single day for the past 50 years and each day he brings earned wisdom to his line of work.
“It is because of long-term, dedicated employees like George that we have been successful for over 100 years. We are truly blessed by the people that make up Delta Star,” he said.
Hudson, originally from South Boston, is one of nine siblings. He moved to Lynchburg when he was 18 after graduating from the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind in Staunton.
It was there he met his wife, Judith, who he has been married to for 48 years. The couple has four children together, including Julie Cox, who translated for Hudson during an interview Monday through American Sign Language.
Hudson’s daughter said she and her siblings learned to sign at a young age from both their parents.
Hudson was born deaf but his wife, Judith, lost part of her hearing in the sixth grade from a case of the measles.
Hudson said he likes the work at Delta Star and hasn’t decided yet when he will retire from the company.
Ernest Barnett, a co-worker of Hudson’s, said the two work together building transformers and each department adds something different to the assembly, which takes all the raw parts and puts it together.
At level 5, Hudson oversees a team of multiple workers.
Barnett said Hudson has developed shortcuts for doing procedures and when he sees another employee do something a certain way, he knows Hudson has trained them.
“You know, he’s done it many, many times and he’s developed a skill set,” he said.
Barnett said being a level 5 assembler means Hudson is the most accomplished, most knowledgeable and has the best work ethic and leadership.
“Even with sometimes the communication gap we have, you can’t question his leadership skills,” he said. “Truly he has a phenomenal work ethic and it kind of feed[s] off into his team. If you see him at work, he works to the bell and he’s nonstop. And you see this 70 year old man works this whole time and it just trickles down into his team and they just keep moving right along.”
Barnett knows very little sign language but Hudson has taught him some over the past seven years.
“It’s not like gesture, but he could show you once and then you know, catch you and show you again or he will write it down,” he said. “That’s usually the best way to communicate. You just write it down and you write a response and give it back to him.”
Learning certain words like tapeline, ladder, steps, has made it easier for Barnett to communicate with Hudson in the workplace.
Hudson said he appreciates it when the people around him and his coworkers at least try to sign with him.
Cox said some people know the alphabet in sign language so they can communicate with him to some degree even if it’s just spelling out words.
Hudson loves to work, and for him, the communication barrier between other employees never has been a challenge.
Whether it is at work or anywhere else, Hudson can communicate with others by simply writing down what he needs to say.
Even though most places Hudson goes around town, everyone knows him and knows how to communicate with him, Cox said that never has stopped him from doing anything he wants or going anywhere he wants.
He and his wife take a weeklong beach trip every year.
“They don’t change anything just because they’re deaf,” Cox said of her parents.
Cox said texting on his phone also has made communication easier for her father.
Cox said her father never has complained about not being able to hear and sometimes suggests he likes he can’t hear.
“Like with loud kids, he’s like ‘I don’t care, I can’t hear,’” she said.
Hudson has had the opportunity to have surgery to get a cochlear implant — a device that provides a sense of sound to a person with hearing loss — but never has been interested.
Hudson has trained many of the company’s employees over the past 50 years as well as taught many of them sign language, Barnett said.
Sometimes Barnett catches himself calling over to Hudson to get his attention out of habit.
“I just go over and tap his shoulder and ask the question and he will come show me,” he said.
Barnett said working in a manufacturing plant that has a schedule working to meet all customers’ needs can be challenging some days.
“We feel the pressure and it’s a push, push, push but he doesn’t show it, he just keeps going,” he said.
With that kind of attitude, Barnett said he feels Hudson is very calming to be around.
“He’s even-keeled, he doesn’t go too high or too low, it’s you know, steady,” he said.
Cox said her father always has had a good work ethic and that has been instilled in her family.
“He gets mad sometimes when he doesn’t work, like take a break you know? But he likes to work and stay busy. He always has,” she said. “It’s something he has passed down to me and my brothers. We saw him work every day. I don’t try to work as much as he does but it’s just something we’ve seen growing up.”
Reach Rachael Smith at (434) 385-5482.