He’s the Dependable, Dedicated, Detailed Johnny D

January 2022 – Johnny DeLeonyPena, or Johnny D as they like to call him at the Wood River Terminal in Illinois, puts the D in dependability.

For 17 years, he has transloaded soda ash from railcar to truck at various St. Louis terminals, ultimately at Wood River. His customers call him directly to request that he handle emergency trucks or an extra load. “They’ve asked him to work over on a day or start extra early to get a truck in, at a moment’s notice,” notes Wood River Assistant Terminal Manager Tona Townzen, “and he does everything possible to accommodate them. He does that all the time.”

DeLeonyPena also puts the D in dedication.

He will work overtime, weekends and has even worked during his vacation to make sure all continues to go smoothly. “He doesn’t want to say ‘no,’” Towzen says. “He just seems like he always tries to go above and beyond for everyone. He keeps the company trucks spotless. His office is spotless. He’ll go out in the yard and pick up things. He’s rearranged the rocks. He’s not sitting around chatting; he’s a busy man.”

DeLeonyPena works hard and with pride, creating housekeeping tasks to keep things looking good for team members and visitors. “Johnny is extraordinarily meticulous and an extra-hard worker,” says Watco Safety Manager Bob Hiller. “After each loading and unloading operation, this guy sweeps up everything to a point you’d think this outdoor asphalted area is his kitchen floor.”

When he’s not keeping things in shipshape at Wood River, DeLeonyPena works on an annual car show for the Edwardsville, Illinois, Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program to benefit high students. As a longtime committee member, he helps put on the annual event, attending planning meetings, soliciting prizes and silent auction donations, gathering sodas and waters for the event, setting up the day before and working the day of. An event organizer called him “golden,” which we think is pretty special, even if golden doesn’t begin with a “d.”

DeLeonyPena is into the details. Hiller recalls the time a few years back when an inspector came to a former Watco terminal to check on compliance with air quality policies, given the soda ash handled at that location at that time. Local air permits governed how much of the fine white residue could be measured in the air.

“Johnny’s records are detailed, to say the least,“ Hiller says. “The inspector watched Johnny do his thing (opening hopper cars, loading the ash to a conveyor, and drawing it into semitruck dump trailers) and watched him clean up. This guy was just taken aback with how complete, how accurate the records were and how clean the area was. He basically said, ‘I don’t think I’m going to have to come over here next year.’ I think what he meant was, ‘We don’t have to worry about this place, because we’ve got you running it.’”

Well Johnny D, thank you for being you. We are delighted.

Read about others like Johnny who are making a difference at Watco and beyond. See more stories