Thursday, July 12, 2012

Last full-time employee at downtown KCKCC campus to retire

An era in Kansas City Kansas Community College is about to an end.

When he retires July 31, Eddie Asher will be the last full-time KCKCC employee to have ever worked at the old downtown campus at 8th and State.

Asher joined Buildings and Grounds June 3, 1972, just in time to open the present campus that fall at 7250 State Avenue. However, some classes continued to be offered at the old campus.

“I’d work cleaning up the downtown campus afternoons and close it at night,” said Asher. “It was a great experience. There was a cute secretary in the office and I’d flirt with her.”

During his 40 years, Asher has worked for four Directors of Buildings and Grounds, C.B. Masoner, Al Johnson, Larry Seal and Jeff Sixta, and five presidents, Dr. Jack Flint, Dr. Alton Davies, Dr. Bill Spencer, Dr. Tom Burke and Dr. Doris Givens.

He didn’t know it at the time but Asher was getting hands-on experience while growing up in the Turner area.

“My mom cleaned houses for a living and I helped her during high school and my dad was a custodian for the Turner school district and I helped him. He showed me how to run a vacuum and a buffer,” says Asher, a 1971 Turner graduate.

His first job was with Buildings and Grounds at UMKC, a summer position mowing and collecting trash. He was looking for a job closer to home when he saw an ad for custodian’s position at KCKCC, applied and had a memorable first year.

“I came as a custodian but the first year they were short on the grounds crew so I helped mow,” remembers Asher. “Then that winter they didn’t have automatic spreaders so we’d load salt and sand on a flatbed truck and shove it off on the streets. It was a cold tough job. We took turns getting in the cab to warm up.”

Keeping the Field House clean was also memorable.

“It was a hot job, miserable in the summer without air conditioning and we’d have to mop the rubber floor by hand,” says Asher, whose duties have taken him to every building on campus including the old metal Lustrom House that once housed the Child Care Center. He also spent time in maintenance, changing filters, ballasts and lots of light bulbs and taking campus mail to the post office. “I worked the afternoon shift and would lock up the campus.”

Married nearly 29 years, he and his wife, Mary, have a son, Jonathan, 28, an Overland Park police officer; a daughter,  Elizabeth, 7, a second grader at Oak Grove Elementary; and 3 and 5-year-old granddaughters with a third grandchild on the way.

“I’m looking forward to spending more time with them,” says Asher, who will turn 60 in October. “I don’t plan on working any more although if I’m offered a job babysitting, I may take that. Working at the college has been a blessing for me and I want to give a special ‘shout out” to Curtis Smith with whom I’ve worked close with for a number of years. He’s not just a co-worker but also a very good friend.”

Retirement plans also include more fishing and more travel (there’s an older sister Joann in Oxnard, Calif., and another, Sharon, in Independence), keeping a close watch on the Chiefs and Royals – and his three biggest passions, bowling, chess and running.

His love of running started with KCKCC’s participation in the Corporate Challenge, a 5K run at Shawnee Mission Park that almost got the best of him. “I wanted to win a running medal so badly

I stupidly tried keeping up with the fast runners instead of pacing myself,” Asher painfully remembers.

“Needless to say I passed out briefly before finishing due to heat exhaustion and dehydration. Before the EMT people got there, Julie (Bichelmeier) from the Wellness Center came to my aid. After a short rest, I was still pretty weak so I had them call my wife and she took me to the emergency room at Shawnee Mission Hospital where I had to have IV treatments. Since then I’ve run many 5K’s, four marathons and five half marathons.”

He bowls in three leagues a week and has been playing chess since his future brother-in-law got him to join the Chess Club at Turner High in 1970.

“I’ve played in a lot of tournaments, Las Vegas, Chicago, St. Louis,” says Asher. “Some of these kids get into computers and are hard to beat. I haven’t beaten any grand masters yet but hopefully I will before I die.”