Rural Missouri - January 2021 - 9
therapy. " It made it a lot easier knowing they were there
for me, " John says.
Back home, John struggled with the challenge of caring
for his son, Zeb. The two loved to take rides together on a
Gator all-terrain vehicle. One night, Zeb asked his dad if
they would ever be able to do that again. It depressed John
because he had no answer for the boy.
The next day John was wheeling into the office when
he met Manager Darren Eckhoff, who instantly realized
John had something bothering him. John told him about
Zeb, and Darren offered to take a look at the machine. He
brought a trailer to John's home and hauled the Gator
On Father's Day he was back, having modified the ATV
with hand controls. " He said, 'Get on and see if it will
work for you,' " John says. " That evening I asked Zeb if he
wanted to go for a Gator ride. Me and him hopped on and
we were gone for probably 3 hours. That was one Father's
Day I will never forget. "
John would soon get a chance to return the favor when
Darren told the staff he was suffering from cancer. As the
disease progressed, Darren too was confined to a wheelchair. Along with Assistant Manager Rance Walters, John
used his mobility van to transport Darren to Columbia
for treatment. " We would bebop to Columbia and get him,
make him laugh, bring him home, " John says. " It was a
sad time. But Darren was a true friend of mine. "
Darren would pass away in October 2019 after witnessing the same outpouring of support from the co-op family
John saw. Not long after Darren's death the cooperative
suffered yet another tragedy when lineman Mike Adams, a
30-year cooperative employee, lost his battle with cancer.
He too would feel the love from this extended family.
" We've had our highs and lows, " says Rance, who grew
up with the cooperative when his dad, Ed, was its manager. " We stick together and say a lot of prayers. "
With new manager Brian Jacobi on board, John wondered whether his role at the cooperative would continue.
He needn't have worried.
John's experience as a lineman and personality made
him the perfect fit for a new role as manager of the cooperative's right-of-way program. Brian endorsed the idea and
John was told to look into a new truck that would allow
him to leave the office to oversee the cooperative's right-ofway contractor. His new ride has doors that open gull-wing
style and a platform lift that puts him in the driver's seat.
The new role fills an important need to improve reliability by keeping trees trimmed well away from lines.
" I was told early on that this was an issue we wanted to
do better in, " says Brian. " Rance came and told me that he
and Darren had talked about this with John. He told me
John owns what he does. And we were going to need that.
Of course, there is another piece that is very important
with dealing with right of way. Because you have a lot of
landowners, some who understand and some who need
more background to understand why you need to cut the
trees. So, the other big thing is charisma. And that is definitely something John has. "
The co-op's employees joke that John has been sent to
pursue easements or other things from landowners. And
he's come back with both the easement signed and an invitation to come hunt with the landowner.
Central Missouri's co-op family extends to its members
as well. Whenever there is a community need you can find
the cooperative well represented. This includes welcoming
home the Central Missouri Honor Flight. Before his tragedy, John helped fly a giant American flag from a bucket
truck along the route the veterans take through Sedalia.
Gary tells of a member who needed a meter base but
could not afford it. One of the linemen covered the charges
so the member could receive power. " We've got other stories
like that around here where the employees have taken care
of the members when they see a need, " Gary says. " I think
a lot of it starts with the board. It starts there and then
we've had managers who care about their community and
employees. And it just spreads from there. "
As for John, he is grateful for the opportunity to continue working on behalf of the cooperative's members and for
the cooperative family who helped him through a difficult
time. " There's nothing like the love and friendship and
family that a co-op has for each other, " he says. " It was a
tough time that I went through, and everyone said I don't
know how you did it. I know how I did it. My family. My
friends. My co-op family. "
photo by Zach Smith
Left: John shares a lighthearted moment with Central Missouri Electric lineman Tony Tilman during the annual meeting. Right: This truck was
modified to lift John and his chair into the cab so he can manage the cooperative's right-of-way program outside the office.
JANUARY 2021 | RURALMISSOURI.COOP
Rural Missouri - January 2021
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - January 2021
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