The facilities building of Summit School District is full of many things — tools, extension cords, sophisticated computer equipment and, on Monday, there was cake, too.
The cake and punch and various other goodies were there, along with other district employees, to honor the facilities department’s three departing members — Kim Yessak, Bob Bentson and Richard Allen. Among the three of them, they have a total of 73 years of maintenance and custodial service.
Kim Yessak, the long-timer
Yessak is one of the department’s longest-standing employees, retiring now with 34 years behind him. With his distinctive ponytail of long, curly dark hair and quick smile, Yessak is easy to spot among the crowd.
A native of northern Minnesota, he made his way to Summit County in 1977, drawn, like many, by the promise of great skiing. He decided to stick around, making his life in the county and raising a family, including two daughters.
He worked at Keystone for two years before taking a job as a janitor in 1979.
“I did that for 18 years, at Silverthorne and Dillon Valley,” he said. “(I did it) at night, so I could ski every day, which I did.”
About 16 years ago, Yessak moved from custodial to maintenance, where he worked throughout the district, learning as he went. A lot has changed over the years, Yessak said, particularly recently, with technology streamlining everything and a computer system that can alert maintenance staff to problems anywhere in the district buildings.
“It’s different every day,” he said of his favorite part of the job.
Yessak’s next step is a move to Fruita this summer. While he still enjoys skiing, he has become particularly passionate about dirt biking, which is much easier in a desert climate. That doesn’t mean he won’t be seen back on Summit County slopes from time to time, however.
“It’s been awesome,” Yessak said. “And it went by pretty fast.”
Richard Allen, the mechanically minded
Allen has been a Summit County resident for 33 years, moving from Oklahoma with his family in 1980. He and his wife, who also worked in the county, raised two sons here.
When he first arrived, Allen started his own all-appliance service business. When he retired from that business he moved on to work with the school district, spending two years as a custodian and then 14 years in the maintenance department. He described himself as “mechanically minded” and said his time with the district went by pleasantly.
Now, Allen is looking forward to moving with his wife to Fresno, Calif. While he enjoys Summit County, California is where the grandkids are — two boys, ages 6 and 3, with whom Allen is eager to spend more time.
His job isn’t quite finished, however, and he had to leave the party to head over to Summit Cove Elementary School and deal with a broken dishwasher. Fortunately, Allen’s wife works at the Summit Cove cafeteria and he didn’t mind going.
Even moving to California, Allen won’t be completely devoid of mountain life and said he plans on visiting the nearby mountain ranges when he gets a hankering for high country.
Bob Bentson, friend and custodian
Bentson, a native of Boulder, has been living in Leadville since 1970.
“It’s a beautiful area,” he said. “I’m happy anyplace in the mountains.”
It was the promise of a job at Climax mine that first drew Bentson to the area. He worked for the mine for seven years as a pressure mechanic, doing maintenance and repair on ore crushing equipment.
Tired of working for the mine industry, Bentson took up a job with the bowling alley in Leadville, first as lane technician and eventually manager and owner, for more than 17 years.
In 1990, a friend of Bentson’s told him of a job opening in the school district. He applied, was accepted and worked as a custodian for the next 23 years. In the beginning, he primarily worked at the high school, in its old building. Since then, he has worked in every single district building, from the elementary schools and onward.
“The little kids at the elementary are neat,” he said, but overall he liked it best when he was working at the high school. The best part about that was “interacting with the students and the staff, just joshing around.”
Bentson always enjoyed being able to say hello to and briefly chat with various students throughout the school.
“I think probably the high point of my stay was last week, being called on to participate in the student awards assembly for the retirees,” he said. He and the others were called on stage and honored by the gathered high school students. “That was neat.”
When asked what he plans to do next, Bentson joked, “I’m going to put a snow shovel on top of our car and we’re gong to start driving and when somebody says ‘what’s that on top of your car?’ we’ll figure, OK, this is the place.”
In all seriousness, he and his wife think they’ll probably head down to Boulder in the next few years. Bentson plans to enjoy his retirement by traveling to visit various friends and family members throughout the country and in Canada.
He also hopes to keep in touch with the colleagues he’s worked beside for the past two decades.
“It’s really been a blessing to work with the people that I have for 23 years,” he said. “There are an awful lot of people all around the district that I’m definitely going to miss.”