This year, one special day — April 9, National Lineman Appreciation Day — is even more special for us. That’s because 2018 marks our 80th anniversary, and we’re celebrating the legacy of linework with lineworkers from our past, present and future.
Known for being “one heck of a climber,” retired PEC employee Cele De Leon was committed to the cooperative and members like you throughout his 33-year career. But his vast on-the-job knowledge didn’t leave with him when he turned in his hard hat; De Leon passed down the skills he learned from his predecessors to rookies like Karl Keel, who’s now an Oak Hill regional operations supervisor.
“During my 33 years at PEC, I always taught Karl, my crews and my team to treat everyone the way they want to be treated,” De Leon said. “And I have a feeling that Karl has carried this on to his crew today. I was always impressed by him and his desire to learn. I hope he learned from me like I learned from him.”
De Leon didn’t just pass down technical skills, he also formed a brotherhood with Keel and taught him the proud tradition of the job.
“Cele was my boss for 23 years, and I learned a lot from him,” Keel said. “His first bucket truck was passed down to me, and we often worked on the same pole, making us ‘pole buddies.’ I’m teaching our younger linemen today the techniques he taught me. I take pride in our work and PEC traditions.”
Today, Keel is passing down his and De Leon’s expertise to the next generation. He now mentors and leads five lineworkers, one being a longtime co-worker’s son, PEC Lineworker Apprentice 2 John Hage.
“My dad, Richard, worked with Karl at PEC,” Hage said. “Now Karl’s my supervisor, and he is always there for me whenever I need him. He teaches me techniques that really make my job easier, and he encourages me to keep learning and respect each person’s job here. I’m thankful to work with these men.”
When asked what it takes to be a great lineworker, all three PEC generations agreed: It’s about being committed to serving the community and, in a job that can be dangerous, fully being there for their crewmates, whom they often refer to as ‘brothers.’ The term is apt in this special line of work; for just like a family, these men and women are made stronger by tradition and the added knowledge of each generation.