OSAGE | Over the years, many Osage residents saw Denny Thompson plowing or hauling snow in his familiar red No. 6 city truck. However, Thompson’s main title was sexton for the Osage Cemetery.
On Friday, Dec. 15, 2017, those duties came to an end, when Thompson retired after 44 years of service to the city of Osage. Thompson holds the honor of being the longest serving employee in city history.
In 1973, Thompson began working part-time at the Osage Cemetery.
“I was working that summer between my junior and senior years,” Thompson said. “Lavern Mullenbach asked if I wanted a full-time job at the cemetery, where Lavern was the sexton at the time.”
The next summer, after Thompson graduated from high school, Mullenbach hired him back.
In July, Mullenbach told Thompson to go speak with Bob Frein, who, at the time, was head of the city’s crew.
“I found Bob bartending, that evening, when I arrived,” Thompson said, “and he asked if I wanted a job. I said ‘yes’, and I was hired. It was just that easy, at that time.”
Though Thompson worked for the city and was on the cemetery crew, it wasn’t until 1995 when he officially became cemetery sexton.
“When I first started there, there was a lot of handwork,” Thompson said. “We had to use a jack hammer to take off three foot of frost when digging a grave in the winter. It could take three or four men all day to dig a grave, and sometimes we held a canvas over a man’s back to keep him from freezing up while he was digging.”
Today, the crew uses a large propane heater to thaw out the grave site and a backhoe to dig the graves.
When late fall came, Thompson became part of the regular city crew, working in the shop to service and maintain city equipment, help with trim trees, run the grader, plow and haul snow, and work with water main problems.
Thompson worked under four different city, street superintendents - Bob Frein, Steve Northup, Mike Stewart and Arnie Anderson.
“I never imagined when I got this job I would work here 44 years,” he said. “When I started I got $3.75 an hour, and I thought I had the world by the tail. It was a good group of guys to work with. They worked together and got things done.
“I liked my job because it was doing something different every day. It was the joy of going out and meeting a lot of people. I will miss the comradery with the guys, but I am looking forward to retirement,” Thompson said.
He said his future plans are to find a part-time job, volunteer in Osage, possibly at an animal shelter in Mason City, and travel with this wife.
“Denny is a good employee and a lot of knowledge will be leaving,” Anderson said. “He was a good worker both at the cemetery and at the street department.”
Jerry Dunlay, Public Works Director, said of Thompson, “He was old school. He was hard working, reliable and got the job done. If there was a big blizzard he would go to the shop, and slept there 'til 3 a.m. so he could get up and plow snow.”
This winter, Osage residents will miss Thompson’s familiar smile behind the wheel of the red No. 6 city truck.