Wayne Shull calls it a career after more than 38 years at WREA
Wed, 01/11/2023 - 10:45am admin
Wayne Shull is a man who doesn’t walk away from a job or anything else until it’s done and done right. His entire life has been about dedicating himself to helping others, doing a good job for the company he works for and more important, helping others around him.
He is finally hanging up his hat at West River Electric Association (WREA) in Wall on Jan. 12, after nearly 39 years of dedicated employment, but this is simply a matter of ending one chapter and the beginning of more chapters in his book of life.
On January 5, a retirement celebration was held at the Wall Community Center for Wayne and Co-Worker Cheryl Walker as they both step away from the cooperative. The room was filled with well wishers and people from all over the region who were there to pay their respects to them.
The real story about Wayne is not about his current retirement, but the entire journey he has taken in his life that displays how he has dedicated himself to his family, his community and his workplaces to this point.
Besides his many years at WREA, in September, he celebrated 43 years of marriage to his wife Melanie, served in the Army National Guard for 27 years, and has been a faithful member of the Catholic Church since the day he was born, 63 years ago.
In his spare time, he was an assistant coach on the Wall High School football team for 30 years and was named the South Dakota High School Activity Association Assistant Coach of the Year in 2011.
He has been involved in the ministry of the Eucharist at the St. Patrick’s Church in Wall for 30 years and taught the youth at various levels in the church for more than 20 years.
All of the things above have been important parts of his life and he put his heart and soul into all of them.
At the WREA retirement celebration, Wayne was presented with a plaque and spoke to the audience. He said he had the support of his family through everything and looked to Melanie and told her thank you and said he was proud of her.
Wayne and Melanie were high school sweethearts and married Sept. 15, 1979. Prior to their marriage, while Melanie had one year of high school left, Wayne attended mechanics school in Mitchell. After his training, he went to work for Dorothy Brothers in Philip where he worked for three years.
While at Mitchell, he joined the Army National Guard. After three years at Dorothy Brothers, he went to work for West River Electric Assoc. in 1984.
While working at WREA, there were many memories made and several storms they had to deal with, but the one that stood out the most to him was the Atlas Storm in Oct. of 2013. It was one of the worst blizzards in the state’s history, dumping 2-4 feet of snow to go along with high winds.
“The one storm job to really stick out was the Atlas storm and the devastation it did to the ranchers,” said Wayne. “It was just heartbreaking to go down the road and see the cattle lined up in the fences that were passed away. You knew it was their livelihood and they were hurting and those were our members.”
“Another memorable time was when we had a bunch of poles go down south of Cottonwood, and we needed to cross the Bad River,” said Wayne. “We had our track digger and Joel Stevens and I decided to unhook the pole trailer as we needed to cross the river, thinking it was five to six feet deep, instead of the thirty feet it was. I remember as soon as the water started shooting up the size of the cigarette lighter, out of the cigarette lighter, Joel opened his door and I looked at him and asked, where are you going, and somehow, the Lord got us across that crick to the other bank and we finally crawled up out of there.”
“Every year it seemed like there was a different memory you made, either during a storm or something else,” added Shull. “In all of that, you met people from different coops which I liked. Linemen sometimes enjoy some of storms because you get to make some decisions on your own and you just go and get it done. Nobody hesitates when it needs to be done and no matter what may happen at other times, when there was a storm, it all gets put aside and the crews come together, work together to get it done.”
Wayne started out as an apprentice lineman May 1, of 1984. He was at guard camp when Fred Richter called him and talked to him about coming to work at WREA. After about a week of thinking it over, he called Fred back and said he would take the job. He started out working with linemen Gary Keyser, Gail Johnson, Mike Erz, Elry Hoefs and Merle Flat.
Wayne had no training or experience in this type of work and after a year there asked Richter why he hired him, someone who went to school to be an auto mechanic, rather than one of these kids coming out of line school. Richter said he likes hiring people who had another trade that would benefit WREA.
“I thought that was pretty smart of him,” said Shull. “He said, I can teach you to be a lineman.”
After a four year apprenticeship, he became a journeyman lineman and he was put in charge of summer help.
“That was special to me because you always had kids that were willing to learn and wanted you to show them something,” said Shull.
He was later promoted to Foreman and Operations Superintendent in 2011. In 2015, they appointed a foreman under him so he did not have both roles to fill and he remained the Operations Superintendent until his retirement.
He said the things he enjoyed most about his job and will miss the most is the employees and the members.
“In the last 10 years, I would always ask myself in anything I did, is this what’s best for the members, is it cost effective for the members, is it maybe not best for all the members, but best for this group or that group,” remarked Shull. “I’ll miss seeing the employees every day. It’s really all about the people.”
He joined the Guards in December of 1978. While at auto mechanic school in Mitchell, one of his instructors was in the Guards.
“The instructor said they were going to get to go to Germany in 1979 so I joined up so I would get to go to Germany,” reasoned Wayne. “I figured I was not going to save up enough money in six years to be able to go to Germany so I joined up. I went to Germany in 1981 and over the years went there five times, to Italy once and Panama once. I knew it was going to cost me six years of weekend drills and summer camps.”
He didn’t stop at six years though, putting in 27 and a half years of serving our country, including serving in the war with Iraq, going overseas to Iraq with the 2nd Battalion of the 247th December of 2003 and staying until May of 2005. When asked why he continued re-enlisting, he said he kept getting drawn back in by the people.
“I found out there was a lot of things to learn and there were different career choices with the military,” he replied. “In 2000, I went into artillery and there was a good bunch of young troops just eager to be troops, and it was invigorating for me to just learn something else,” said Shull.
With the war with Iraq in full swing, he was sent to Kuwait in Dec. of 2003, then went into Iraq with the advance camp in Feb.
He said being away from his family was extremely tough, but the one thing that helped him was before he left, he requested he could be sent home by Aug. 7, for R and R for his son Zach’s wedding and they granted that.
In Iraq he and his crew worked on the Humvees, were running convoy security and were in the maintenance pool.
They started with 30 Humvees and ended up with 105, and they all had Wall Drug stickers on them. The different crews had different colored stickers so they could tell the apart.
Living there brought some challenges, such as bugs.
“When we first got there, there were not a lot of bugs, but the first round of bugs that came were the gnats,” said Wayne. “They were in your ears, they were biting you...there was just nothing you could do about it, making it annoying working on the vehicles. There was probable six weeks of them. Then the dung beetles came for six weeks, a hard shelled bug but they didn’t bother you so much, they were just all over the place and you were stepping on them. Then it was the crickets. They would spray for them but they would come out from everywhere and didn’t bite but were annoying.
“I had some really good NCO’s above me that taught me at an early age about things like being unselfish, to try to bring some of the troops around that nobody else wanted,” replied Shull. “You tried to save them.
He retired from the Guards in June of 2005 as a Master Sergeant.
Wayne’s dad, Sonny, served in the Army in the Korean war, his son Seth served in the Marines for six years and his brother Tom served in the Army.
In addition to a lengthy commitment to his family and career, the longest commitment in his life has been his faith and as a member of the Catholic Church since birth.
“Mom was always so faithful to the church,” said Shull. “We didn’t have much but it was something you could do that didn’t cost you anything, that made you feel good about yourself. A truly change of heart for me though was the VSI program that Mel and I went through. It was one weekend that I was struggling on our homework and I asked father Christensen a question and he told me not to get all headsy about this stuff, it is designed to change your heart. At that moment, I think there was a true transformation in my heart that made me realize it needed more attention than I had been giving it. The next thing that confirmed that was Covid, when were not able to receive the Eucharist for that amount of time. The first time after we were able to receive the Eucharist, it was really emotional.”
The VSI is a program through the Rapid City Diocese that strives to form disciples and catechists who engage in the work of evangelization and catechesis. Wayne and Melanie went through the program with Wayne’s brother Roger. Unfortunately, Roger passed away a few months after going through the program. A scholarship has been established in Roger’s name and a heartwarming story on Wayne, Melanie and Roger can be found on the Catholic Diocese of Rapid website or go to the link: https://www.rapidcitydiocese.org/vsi-shull-scholarship/
“It helped back in high school having many friends who also went to church school,” he added. “It’s all about the mustard seeds we collect along the way that will come back to you. To me, my Catholic faith is very special.”
He and Melanie became involved with ministry of the Eucharist in the early 1990’s.
Wayne was a member of the church finance committee for a number of years. He was on the Parish Council and he taught the youth at various levels for over 20 years. He was a confirmation sponsor for several young men and assists with maintaining both the church and rectory facilities/grounds, including assisting with snow removal.
He and Melanie have been campaign volunteers for both of the Diocesan Missions in the past 10 years (Walk by Faith and Living the mission).
Wayne and Mel completed the church’s Veritatas Splendor Institute – both basic and masters program.
Wayne volunteered as a Jr High Basketball Assistant Coach, Youth Baseball Coach, Women’s Softball Coach over the years.
Melanie retired from First Interstate Bank May 27, 2022, after nearly 39 years with the same bank.
Wayne is looking forward to spending more time with family and friends, wood working, traveling, kayaking, pickleball, mechanic work, cooking, helping others in need, playing Santa and reaching out to the troops he served with in Iraq.
Wayne and Melanie have four children, Miranda, Zach, Seth and Jennifer, with all their children married and having families, giving them 13 grandchildren.
“For me, family is a place you are accepted with unconditional love,” said Wayne. “Family is home, a place of security and so much more. Everything I’ve done, I’ve had the support of Mel. Whatever I’ve decided, she has supported me.”