Ninety years young, and still plumbing right along

  • Gordon MacEwan from the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials presents Herb Hohengasser with an award recognizing his years of service to the industry, Nov. 16, 2017. Submitted Photo

Recorder Staff
Friday, November 24, 2017

DEERFIELD — Herb Hohengasser will turn 90 years old this Saturday, Nov. 25, making him one of the oldest active plumbing and gas inspectors in Massachusetts.

“We call him the ‘energizer bunny’ because the man can’t stop,” said Andy French, regional plumbing inspector at the Franklin Regional Council of Governments. Hohengasser covers all inspections in Montague and Wendell, and acts as an alternate to French for the entire Franklin County region.

Technically, Hohengasser “is retired,” French explained, but he still inspects on average five to ten buildings per week. “When I call him, his wife thanks me,” French joked.

Last Thursday evening at the Franklin County Master Plumbers Association’s monthly meeting at Monarchs Restaurant on Routes 5 and 10, about 45 plumbers and inspectors honored Hohengasser with a special award for his longstanding work in the plumbing and gas industries.

The award was presented in honor of Hohengasser’s 90th birthday by Gordon MacEwan from the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials.

The Franklin County Master Plumbers Association is composed of dozens of plumbers and about 60 plumbing inspectors. Inspectors double-check plumbing work inside buildings to make sure it meets state standards.

Hohengasser, a lifetime Greenfield resident who currently serves as the regional plumbing organization’s treasurer, joined in the 1950s. At first, he worked under the organization’s founder, Harold Doran, then later as a self-employed plumber from about 1965 to 1995. He became a plumbing inspector in the 1980s.

“He was one of the founders and has kept it going for all these years,” Vice President Jason Wallace said of Hohengasser and the association. “He’s one of the cornerstones. We believe he’s the oldest active plumbing inspector.”

He continues to work because, he said, he likes it. “It gets me out of the house,” said Hohengasser, who at 89 is still spry and quick to crack a joke. As an inspector, he’s a “wealth of knowledge,” according to 82-year-old Doug Cranson, a master plumber and the organization’s secretary. Looking ahead, Hohengasser said he intends to continue working for the foreseeable future.

Among those in attendance Thursday was Wayne Thomas, executive director of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association, and Hohengasser’s grandson, Joe Hohengasser, owner of Hohengasser Plumbing and Heating in Athol.

While there are other plumbing associations in Massachusetts, Cranson said they’re probably “not as well managed” as is the Franklin County Master Plumbers Association, in large part because of Herb Hohengasser’s work.

“The comradery is the most outstanding feature,” Cranson said. Monthly meetings, along with an accessible way to learn up-to-date plumbing information and earn continuing education credits, give members a chance to ask experienced inspectors like Hohengasser and French technical questions “and not feel like we’re going to get chastised,” he continued.

Cranson credits that sense of comradery, and through it the association’s success, to Hohengasser, who sets the tone for others.

“He’s the oldest one here, and I’m the second oldest. He’s been my mentor for all these years,” Cranson said, noting Herb Hohengasser mentors everyone, “whether it’s a young guy or an old-timer.”