Red & Beverly Bingham: A Lions Legacy That Rumbles

The letter asked Red Bingham if he wanted a Lions Legacy that roars, but as usual, Red had his own idea. What if it rumbled instead? And what if that rumble came from a Kenworth diesel tractor with more than enough power to pull the Lions Health Screening Unit from one end of Multiple District 19 to the other for years to come, serving the Lions sight and hearing mission at each stop along the way?

To Red it fit — the right tool for the right job courtesy of “Mr. Fix-It,” his nickname to many Lions around MD19. Several steps remained before he and wife Beverly turned the key on a $145,000 legacy gift that adds a giant exclamation point to the District’s recent successful capital campaign to raise money for a new trailer. “When I read that the tractor would have to be replaced next, I knew what I wanted to do,” he says.

Step one: Clear it with “the general superintendent.” After all, it was Beverly’s idea 48 years ago to buy the couple’s first five shares in PACCAR (Pacific Car and Foundry), the company that manufactures Kenworth and Peterbuilt tractors. Back then, those shares cost slightly more than $300 total. A couple of purchases later — not to mention a few passing decades and more than a few dividends converted to shares — their investment had appreciated in value to where Red and Beverly had the means to make this generous gift. Or as Red puts it, “PACCAR really paid for this tractor, not us.”

Step two: Call PDG Mike Parker, LHSU Operations Manager, to make sure he was willing to drive a Kenworth. The call went well. Or as Red remembers it, “I thought Mike was going to come through the telephone to me.”

Why Red Bingham loves Kenworth tractors

It’s a good thing PDG Mike shares Red’s affection for Kenworths. Otherwise the deal was off. “I’m a bullheaded old goat and I don’t care who knows it,” says Red. “It was a Kenworth or nothing.” The declaration comes with a big Red Bingham smile, which invites the listener to join Red in having a laugh at himself. The smile helps Red get away with always doing it his way, but a proven track record for knowing what he’s talking about on all things mechanical helps, too.

The love affair with Kenworth started on old Highway 99. In their early years of marriage, Red and Beverly lived in an apartment located alongside a stretch of the highway near the Duwamish River. PACCAR’s manufacturing plant was close by, and the company used this same stretch of highway to test drive its Kenworth tractors. It was this bird’s eye preview of each model, including one jet-powered version, that impressed the Bingham’s senses and captured their loyalty. Eventually Beverly told Red, “We have to buy some stock in this business.”

That decision and their loyalty through the years paid dividends that now transfer to the whole of MD19 in material form as a brand new Kenworth tractor — “the world’s best truck,” according to Red. “It’s gotta be first class,” he says, “because the Lions Health Screening Unit is something that I think is pretty darn important.”

Why Red Bingham loves Lions

Through his working career, Red Bingham held the kind of jobs that can obsess a man. As a deckhand/diver tender, then a diver, and then a crew chief for McCray Marine Construction for 25 years, he performed backbreaking work in an environment where mistakes could cost lives.

His first job as a diver was on a sewer outfall in Anchorage, Alaska. He supervised the crew that installed anchors 200 to 300 feet underwater to secure the Hood Canal Bridge. Another of his crews had the rare misfortune of having the Columbia River freeze solid on them just before they reached the far shore in a project to lay 12,000 feet of 36-inch pipe across the river.

After McCray, Red bought his own diving barge. He put sweat equity and his own money into bringing the Diver Three into compliance with the highest safety standards, then leased it to projects around the nation. Sometimes he stayed with the barge to assist with operations; other times he delivered it to others’ care. “I would have to pick him up in the strangest places,” Beverly remembers.

Through the long hours and the travel, Red also found time to build the couple’s first home from scratch on a 6.5 acre parcel of land in the Richmond Highlands. The project took 15 years because Red both refused to buy materials until he had the money to pay for them and did the work himself. They had to live in the basement while the house was being finished, but no mortgage for the Binghams and Red got to build the place exactly the way Beverly and he wanted.

Which brings us to the Lions. “When you put too much work in your life then you lose something,” he says now. “I used the Lions as a release.”

Wise as that may sound, Beverly has another version of how Red became a Lion 42 years ago. “I asked my friend to ask her husband to ask Red to join the Lions,” she explains. Sometimes with a man fully in charge of his own destiny, it takes the deft touch of a woman like Beverly to get him there. It is evident in talking with the two of them together that Red realizes and appreciates this. Beverly was a Lion, too, as a member of the former Shoreline Lady Lions Club. Through 61 years of marriage, 3 wonderful children, 8 grandchildren, and 5 great grands, she has been with Red every step of the way, sometimes maybe even a little in front.

Ironically, Red’s “relief” through Lions involves an impressive list of projects, first with the Shoreline Club and now with Edmonds. Besides fixing and customizing equipment like a van used for efficient installation of flag poles or the chassis for the zone parade float, the Lions hearing mission is Red’s niche. He helped establish hearing foundations for both District B and MD19. He was also highly involved in the Lions Early Assessment Project (LEAP) that initiated hearing screening tests for all newborns in Washington State hospitals. And he has spent many years as Club Hearing Chairman, first for the Shoreline Club and now for Edmonds. There’s more, but this partial accounting shows why Red is a Melvin Jones Progressive Fellow, the highest honor awarded by Lions Club International Foundation (LCIF).

It also helps explain why the frequently outspoken, rarely abashed Red found himself temporarily overwhelmed at a recent MD19 Council Governor’s Dinner where he and Beverly were honored. As he looked out from the podium it struck him how lucky they were to be in a position to do something vital for a project as important as the Lions Health Screening Unit. “It hit me all of the sudden that this was a pretty big deal,” he remembers. “I choked up and could hardly give my speech.”

Not to worry, Red. When it comes to serving others, you put muscle over mouth for the last 42 years. Now sit back a spell and listen to the legacy. No words necessary. The rumble of a 375 horsepower diesel Kenworth tractor will say things just right for many years to come.