Each month Moreau-Grand Electric Cooperative produces a news magazine. The magazine is designed to inform our membership about the cooperative and its efforts to serve your energy needs. We offer timely articles on how to use electricity safely and efficiently. You will find interesting stories about the people who define and enhance the quality of life in communities served by electric co-ops.
I’m dedicating my column to Kerry Burgee who is retiring from Moreau-Grand Electric Cooperative in January after 46-plus years of serving the members as a lineman. Believe me when I say that this is no easy task to do justice to an employee who has devoted this many years of their life to the essential job of keeping the lights on for our members.
Kerry was hired as a temporary employee on July 12, 1971, for $2/hour. At this time, Kerry was 19 years old – soon to be 20 in December of that same year. Prior to this, Kerry worked on an oil rig for a year after high school both in Lantry and then in Gillette, Wyo. Kerry’s temporary employment status at Moreau-Grand lasted for nine months. Then in April of 1972, he was offered full-time status at $3.22/hour.
Crew members that Kerry worked with in the beginning included Mike Tibbs, Gus Clausen, Bill Ward and Calvin (Red) Traversie. Kerry recalls that Mike Tibbs was the area foreman back then, and when Mike’s wife passed away, Kerry was made foreman for a temporary time period until Mike returned. Once Mike retired, Kerry was permanently named foreman in 1977, the same position he is retiring with today.
In May of 1979, Kerry was working with George Boldt, Jr., when George was electrocuted on a pole by the Eagle Butte softball field. Kerry was the crew member who actually climbed the pole and retrieved George’s body. This could have very well been a turning point for Kerry in his career, but he persevered and went on to mentor many more linemen over the years.
I asked Kerry what will stick out in his mind over these 46 years – his response was a couple things: The ice storms of 2010 including the Dupree Tornado in June of that same year will forever be etched in his mind as I believe all of us who experienced such would agree. The other major transition has been the huge improvement in equipment – Kerry remembers only having a worn out digger truck that came from the State Highway Department when first starting work. The “South Crew” – as they have been referred to over the years – did not have their own boom truck. If they needed one, it had to come from Timber Lake. There were no four-wheel drive pickups back then so had to chain up to go anywhere.
Over the years, I have referred to Kerry as an “oak.” My translation speaks to the description of the oak tree – as the oak is considered a cosmic storehouse of wisdom embodied with its towering strength; the oak is to be honored for endurance and noble presence, what a fitting description of Kerry Burgee.
Kerry has worked more after-hour outages than anyone could ever imagine. I have vivid memories of Kerry reciting miles of the exact path of a power line right from the top of his head without ever referring to a map. His memory is unmatched by anyone I have met.
One won’t replace the experience that Kerry will leave with; instead we will simply move on knowing that Kerry will forever be a “legend” here at Moreau-Grand Electric Cooperative.
Kerry is a humble man who resists public acclaim – so we will honor his request and let him enter the next chapter of his book of life without a big send off. Many times in life words can’t adequately describe one’s emotion – but actions say it best. Kerry’s actions over the years certainly are a testament of a career well done.
God Bless Kerry and Diane Burgee for many years to come