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Jack Thompson Helped Build The Mackinac Bridge; Now He Has A Piece Of It

ALPENA, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) -- In 1956, Jack Thompson was part of the crew that built the Mackinac Bridge. And now, the 93-year-old has a part of it with him.

According to the Mackinac Bridge Authority, Thompson, who lives in the Besser Senior Living Community in Alpena, received a piece of the bridge's original deck grating from Bill O'Neil, maintenance director of the senior living community.

Jack R. Thompson, far right, works as part of a crew wiring the mesh to catwalk ropes between piers 17 and 18 on the Mackinac Bridge in 1956. Thompson says it was a pencil in his mouth, "not a smoke." (H.D. Ellis photo/MDOT archives)

"I can't explain what a wonderful feeling it is to have a piece of the actual bridge," Thompson said in a statement. "It brings back great memories."

"It is really cool. I was just one man, and there were so many who worked to build the bridge," he later added. "It was a great experience, and I met a lot of great people."

Officials say Thompson was part of a crew that strung 42,000 miles and 11,840 tons of cables suspending the bridge. After working on the bridge, he worked in his hometown of Alpena and last crossed the bridge in 1960.

Jack R. Thompson, right, who worked on the Mackinac Bridge in 1956, receives a piece of the bridge's original steel grating from Bill O'Neil, maintenance director of the Besser Senior Living Community where Thompson now lives. (courtesy: Mackinac Bridge Authority)

"I travel between the Upper and Lower Peninsula of Michigan every week and I often think about the men and women who built the Mackinac Bridge," O'Neil said. "I feel honored to be able to bring a piece of the bridge decking back for Jack as a reminder of his work and of the great friends he met on the bridge."

Pieces of the original bridge grating, created as part of an ongoing project to replace those as needed, are on sale at the Mackinac Bridge Administration office in St. Ignace.

Grating pieces (roughly 5 inches by 11 inches and 5 inches by 8 inches) are $20 each and limited to three per customer. All prices are sold as is and customers must sign a liability disclaimer/hold harmless agreement.

Large pieces of the used grating are available for auction at as they become available.

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