GTPulse: Traverse City Man Turns 91 Today, Still Happily Working

There are 91 candles on a pineapple upside down cake for Earl Ennis today. The local man gets up and goes to work everyday.

The trick to a long life?

“Working,” said Earl Ennis, who turns 91 today and is sharp as ever. 

On any given weekday, you can find Earl behind his desk at Ennis Trucking, the family business he started in 1980. At the start of the Traverse City-based company, he and his young family had just moved to Northport. from downstate. 

“My wife grew up here. Her parents were from Suttons Bay and Empire. Norwegians. I think they came over by boat because there were no roads when they came up! But we used to bring the kids up here and go camping at the state park, and I fell in love with the area like everybody does.”

Earl wasn’t new to the trucking industry when he started the company. As a young man, he had spent time as a trucker himself.

“I’ve been in the trucking business on and off my entire life, since 1946. In those days, you weren’t restricted to hours like you are now. You slept when you weren’t driving. I used to like driving in California. You’d get peaches from Yuma and bring them back home.”

Earl has seen every state in the lower 48, and though he’s never made the trek to Alaska, he’s proud to tell me that one of his drivers had.

“One of my drivers drove from Traverse City all the way to Alaska. That was a long way, 40-some hundred miles.”

Ennis Trucking began with one truck and Earl. Now he’s got 12 drivers, various shippers, and seven trucks that go all over North America.

“I have three going from Big Rapids to Mexico, they’ll be there by New Year’s Day.”

Although Earl doesn’t drive trucks anymore, he remembers his time driving fondly. He acknowledged that it’s a guaranteed way to see the country and make good money while doing so, but that it’s a strange life that requires one to be comfortable spending lots of time alone and away from home. With a successful 68 years of marriage under his belt, he didn’t let the odd hours get in the way of him and his sweetie.

“I taught her how to drive when she was in high school. I’ve let her drive the truck before too, a long time ago.”

He got out of the trucking industry and worked as a builder for a while. He worked on Interstate 75 (I-75) from Detroit to Toledo while it was being constructed.

“I spent three years on that job in the early fifties. They said, ‘before you die, they’ll tear this road up and replace it,’ I said, ‘you’re nuts.’ But they have. Twice.”

Earl tried retirement once. At 48 years old he stopped working, only to resume again two years later.

“I did a lot of fishing and things like that, but after a while, I wanted to go back to work. I enjoy it very much. It’s challenging, you know. I have to figure out, ‘How can I help this person?’ This morning I had a woman ask me if we can get an extra load of steel up from Ohio. I have to figure out how to make that happen.”

As I was leaving his office, a call came in about the trucks going down to Mexico. The caller was nervous that the shipment may be delayed but Earl was already at work assuring her that these trucks run on time. Before leaving, I asked if there were any other tricks to life longevity.

“I love to play Texas Hold ‘Em,” he said with a grin.

Earl Ennis knows maps and roads, and he’s mapped out a life for himself that continues to instill joy, family values, and hard work. Today he’ll be enjoying a pineapple upside-down cake made by his daughter Joan.

“It’s out of this world.”

Happy birthday, Earl.

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Categories: GTPulse